The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from the highest caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.
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A thesis picture. In 1938, Gandhi's party is making inroads in women's rights. Chuyia, a child already married but living with her parents, becomes a widow. By tradition, she is unceremoniously left at a bare and impoverished widows' ashram, beside the Ganges during monsoon season. The ashram's leader pimps out Kalyani, a young and beautiful widow, for household funds. Narayan, a follower of Gandhi, falls in love with her. Can she break with tradition and religious teaching to marry him? The ashram's moral center is Shakuntala, deeply religious but conflicted about her fate. Can she protect Kalyani or Chuyia? Amid all this water, is rebirth possible or does tradition drown all? Written by
The history of how this film came to be is in itself dramatic - filmmaker Deepa Mehta's tenacity along with producer David Hamilton reaped the memorable result of WATER
WATER is delivered likened to a fable, yet the story told is not at all a fantasy. In fact, another film, "White Rainbow" by w-d Dharan Mandrayar, delivers a tale of four women with similar subject matter in a modern day setting vs. the 1930's Colonial India of Mehta's "Water." The deplorable deprivation situation of the widows of India with powerless means is real.
Check out the production notes on WATER, you'd learn of the travails and hurdles filmmaker Mehta has to go through, determined and dauntlessly she forged on. We are fortunate to be able to see the result (thanks to Fox Searchlight Pictures distribution). Perhaps the casting ten years after could very well meant to be: Seema Biswas as Shakuntula - the protective, courageous Didi with unyielding faith; Lisa Ray as Kalyani, the beautiful 'sole bread-winner' with lovely hair and a tender companion to young Chuyia; John Abraham as Narayan, the idealistic young man returning to the village after his law exam and smitten by Kalyani; introducing the talented 8 year old Sarala from a village near Galle, Sri Lanka playing Chuyia, the 'girl widow'- she sure captures the spirit of the story/film.
Seeing what these women had to endure/endured all these years, prompts us to think how lucky we are - not to assume/take for granted the goodness and abundance we so readily have. The struggles/problems we may have compared to their grievous hardship sure makes one rethink - putting things in perspective. The film is not preachy at all, in fact, it's dramatic with mystery and secrets, not depressive in spite of the storyline but contains dashes of hope, laughter and tender moments. An impressive production all round, with cinematography by Giles Nuttgens, who collaborated with w-d Mehta on her trilogy installments: FIRE 1996 and EARTH 1998; music complements from Mychael Danna, who participated with w-d Mira Nair in "Monsoon Wedding" and "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love" and on fellow Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan's ventures.
The film, with its controversial political ripples 'at home', is a human story with much kindness at heart. It's intriguing and a tear-jerker for me - it's naturally emotional. Somehow WATER also reminds me of director Jag Mundhra's "Bavandar" (2000, India: Hindi title aka "The Sand Storm") - another worthwhile film from India.
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