Water (2005) Poster

(I) (2005)

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9/10
Deep water for traditionalists
Philby-310 April 2006
This beautiful and poignant film also packs quite a punch; the sorry plight of Hindu widows in traditional Indian society is made evident. Deepa Mehta has clearly set out to make a film with a message but she lets the story carry the message and she does not demonize the supporters of ancient oppressive practices, some of whom are motivated by faith rather than self-interest. Strangely the film's beauty undercuts to some extent the political message: I can imagine a devout Hindu seeing it as supporting the traditional view.

As explained in the film, according to ancient texts a Hindu widow had three choices; she could join her husband on his funeral pyre, she could marry his younger brother (if available) or she could go into an Ashram (refuge) with other widows and live a life of self-denial to atone for the sin of having lost her husband.. It is the third option Chuyia (Sarala) takes on the death of her husband in 1938. Chuyia however is only nine years old and scarcely remembers getting married.

The Ashram is a poor place, self-supported by the proceeds of begging and prostitution, but there is camaraderie amongst the women (who are of all ages) and Chuyia, initially, is not badly treated. The focus shifts to Kalyani (Lisa Ray) the Ashram's "jewel" who becomes involved with a young political activist Narayana (John Abraham), a supporter of Gandhi.

The film is not so much an attack on religion as on particular beliefs. I've no doubt one could live the life of a devout Hindu without believing that widows are responsible for their husband's deaths just as one can be a devout Christian without believing in slavery, or that the earth is flat, or was created in 4004BC. Although the film is set just prior to World War 2 there are undoubtedly many supporters of the ancient texts still out there – Mehta was prevented from filming in India by some of them and "Water" was eventually filmed in Sri Lanka. I find it impossible to have any sympathy for their position because it really amounts to using the practices of a society which has long passed away to defend an economic interest, or rather to excuse the abandonment by her family of a woman who has had the ill-luck to lose her husband. As Chuyia asks, where is the Ashram for the widowers? Also, whatever could be said for child marriage on social or economic grounds 2000 years ago, there is no possible justification for it now.

It's a great pity the film was banned in India and Pakistan – it is a film for the citizens of those countries rather than me, but it is striking to watch and I suspect, not easy to forget.
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9/10
Hooray, Deepa!
info-153423 November 2005
I saw this film on a Saturday afternoon in a theater with about 40 other people, split about 60/40, females to males. All ages although the younger viewers were mainly female. (late teens) Towards the end, as I was choking back tears and grabbing at Kleenex's, I looked around as there was total silence from the audience. It was AWED SILENCE, people! Every woman was bawling her eyes out and the men, without exception, were scrunched down into their collars, staring intently, holding back tears. This is Deepa's finest hour. She can retire now knowing she has made a worthy film. I would have voted 10 but there were a few technical glitches such as one moment were the color/lighting changed for about 3 seconds in an important scene and then snapped back. No blame to Deepa, though. I have sent several to see the film and all have raved about it, Can hardly wait to buy the DVD and see it again. The criticisms were political and should not be considered. Any film that criticizes aspects of a religion gets blasted from fundamentalists. This film is NOT a political statement. It is entertainment based on a political statement. It should not be missed. Brava!!!
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10/10
A symbolic masterpiece.
atifshock11 April 2006
I just wanted to say that the symbolism of water in this movie was incredible. There was rain and rivers as well as drinking water. You could really specify that it was in terms to purify the characters and wash away negativities that they had lived through. Water was really a wonderful movie by my favorite director of all time, Deepa Mehta. She is honestly brilliant and I was amazed by the beauty and cinematography of this movie. It surpassed that of any other movie shes done and it shows. However, I believe that Deepa Mehta really drew a lot of lines in the script because it was not her familiar work. Her first movie in the trilogy, Fire, was very controversial because she did not censor it at all. You can really tell that she took out some parts from fear of the idiotic fundamentalists and political parties. Though she did that, it still had a meaninful moral that was gracious and the entire movie really was a refreshing burst of water.
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9/10
The Water of Life; Echoes of Baran
kergillian15 November 2005
In 2001, well-regarded Iranian director Majid Majidi came out with Baran, a film about a young girl forced to pretend to be a boy in order to bring money to her immigrant Afghani family, living illegally in Iran and not permitted to work. Baran means 'rain' in Farsi, and the allegory of water was a very important one thematically within the film.

Baran was later thematically pilfered by a less successful film, Osama, which dealt with the harsh reality of an anti-feminist Taliban in Afghanistan, where a girl is caught pretending to be a boy by the Taliban regime, and the horrible consequences of her actions - only committed for the purpose of survival.

Water is similar to both of these films on several thematic levels. Deepa Mehta finishes he trilogy on a powerful note. She gives us the story of two women, each trying to discover a sense of self-worth and purpose while trapped in a seemingly endless life of forced confinement. she also gives us the story of a woman who is not only trying to keep her faith but understand it, and a man who is looking for change in a world of stagnation and traditionalism.

The feminist ideal is a prominent one, as is survival against the harshest of odds. Inhumanity on one level contrasted against the theme of renewal, both physically and spiritually - the essence of water, the ever-moving, indispersable, and essential aspect of life itself. But Water succeeds on the level of Baran - unlike Osama, which preaches incessantly, hitting you over the head with its point until your concussed with what the director has to say. Water, like Baran, is subtle, preferring to let the human side of the story tell you what you need to know, and showing us the necessity for change, for hope, for unbroken faith, without holding our hands through the process.

Mehta has given us a very successful film. What struck me most about this film was that the subject matter is one that the Western world would likely exclaim as being incomprehensible - that of widows being thought of as untouchable, and spiritual pollution (as though it was their will that their husbands die on them...) - and yet so much of the Western World exists in this film. This is not merely an Eastern film that we should look at and cluck our tongues, saying 'those crazy Indians!' These issues exist in our back yards - the ill treatment of foreigners, of neighbours, of our own peoples.

This film is very heavy, but there is a light side to it - the message of Ghandi, and the promise of renewal of spirit. That faith is not something to twist to your own beliefs, but something for your beliefs to be twisted to. We are constantly reminded of Ghandi's teachings - but we are never preached to. Instead, Ghandi could almost be an absent narrator - his voice is only heard for a brief instant near the end of the film - instead we hear his voice through the voice of Narayan, who is the avatar of Ghandi in the film, and the avatar of change.

Water teaches us that problems exist, and that many are rooted in our own traditions and beliefs - often misinterpreted or twisted by us to fit our agendas. The British can't be scapegoats for THIS set of issues (though they were responsible for plenty of others). Change is hard to come by, but the one thing that is eternal is Water. Sure, there are a few moments of unsubtle prodding in the film, but the fine acting and smart writing overcame any moments of forced drama. And the heart-wrenching twists within the story were surprising in their finality, and not Disneyesque tear-jerking moments. Our faith (and not necessarily religious faith) must be like water - for without either, we cannot hope to survive. 9.5/10.
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9/10
Visually Appealing, Emotionally Touching, Funny and Witty
absolut_di9 September 2005
I just saw this last night at the TIFF with no expectations (originally didn't even want to see it). But what an enjoyable film this was!!! The dialogue was quite witty, the stars were attractive and gave very believable performances (my friend said that she was so drawn into it that she forgot those people were just acting and weren't really living the life of the characters). The story had the audience empathize with the situation and all those involved, with lightened bits of humour intermixed with sad/dramatic parts throughout.

What captivated me the most was how beautifully filmed each scene was (in that respect, it reminded me of House of Flying Daggers). The stunning cinematography, vivid colours were all so carefully planned. In every frame, I can envision a beautiful photograph which can be composed from it.

The score was also very good and added to the mood of the film.

Go see it if you have the opportunity, you will not be disappointed (oh, might want to bring some Kleenex tho').

oh, and since it was at TIFF, Deepa spoke a few words (she appears to be very down to earth and sincere) and the cast was also present (John Abraham and Lisa Ray are absolutely gorgeous but very modest and subtle). These people did such a fabulous job, but remain so approachable and true. Am so proud of them!!!!
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9/10
Incredible!
davidbryce6 December 2005
It was on a lark that four of us attended the movie 'Water'. We ranged in age from 24 to 41 and we're all still talking about it two weeks later, in fact we're planning to go see it again before it's out of the theater. The movie entertained and educated, while giving at once an insight into the beauty of the country and the viciousness of some cultural norms. It seems impossible to believe that some of the things in this movie could have actually happened, and that perhaps today there are women (widows) living in similar circumstances. The characters in this movie are easy to identify with, to love and to despise. Despite the bleak conditions portrayed in the movie, there are moments of wonder and comedy and great love. The vistas are stunning, as are the character portrayals. Enjoy this movie on the big screen and then rush out to buy your own copy as soon as it's available. I too now 'want a ladoo'.
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9/10
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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10/10
Water is unforgettable
chicreid5 February 2006
One of the most powerful movies I have ever seen! The actors were fearless. The story was honest, raw and moving. I feel changed by it. Deepa Mehta' created something out of love, vision and fearlessness and it shows. I was brought to tears by the end of the film, not because of pity for the characters but rather out of pride. Though the film deals with heavy issues the actors carried it with dignity. The script articulates the tragedy and hypocrisy these women must bare but it also illustrates the quiet revolution we must all experience in order to grow, in order to change. I have seen Earth, Fire and now Water and Mehta has done justice to all of them.
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10/10
Water-essential for survival
espiritlibre24 March 2006
I felt really really sad after watching this movie. After watching a movie like this one feels empathy towards the women. We know women and children are being treating worse than animals...by patriarchy.

Most women in the western world to not even know the meaning of this word. In North America what is the worse thing that happens to us...we encounter betrayal and gossip mostly by other women. We are too busy comparing ourselves to even appreciate our rights. Oprah (has said) that we are lucky just to be born in North America.

All the women in this movie were strong willful characters, like many Indian women they accepted their fate, BUT they still made choices. Lisa Ray's character still fell in love despite her destiny. Despite her circumstances she was so mentally, spiritually, emotionally and overall more evolved than John's character.

One even feels empathy towards him, as a man he is so out of touch with reality...he lives life according to his idealism. This is how he copes with struggles in his life. He choices are also constrained by circumstance From an outsiders point of view, John's character seems to have it all, respect, a sweet mom (Waheeda). I loved WR in Guide that is one of my favorites. His world shatters when he learns of his fathers secrets...

Lisa's character knows her fate, yet she takes the initiative to follow her heart. As a Canadian I am really proud of WATER, I usually do not watch these kinds of movies but sometimes a wake up call is necessary especially when we are wrapped up in our own selfish needs. Water is masterpiece...I am proud of Lisa Ray for taking the time and actually learning about the craft of acting.
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10/10
Excellent but wondering
harding-home13 November 2005
Water is certainly an excellent film by an excellent director. She has crafted a drama that blends a love story with social commentary, humour and the challenges of faith. The characterizations are subtle yet complex. The cinematography is outstanding.

However, what I wonder about arises from the plot outline and film description posted on the IMDb, which describe Narayana (John Abraham's character) as being of lower caste and his father's home as being a "hovel". Did I see a different version of Water? In the film I saw Narayana and his family are high caste Brahmans and the "hovel" is a mansion. Perhaps someone can explain this to me.
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10/10
Religion as Hypocrisy and Sexual Abuse
nycritic28 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
All religions have inconsistencies within their own laws and delve into the subtle (and not so subtle) manipulation of the population to maintain a sense of control over its followers. In a way, this constitutes a form of cult society, even when the leader is not a crazy person but our own god of choice, dictating ridiculous penances upon people who otherwise have no reason to be under such a predicament.

India has a belief system called the Hindu Laws of Manu. In it, it creates "widows" out of girls who are purportedly the reincarnations of wives whose husband died, and because of this, must life a life in abject poverty, incommunicado with the outside world, maltreated by people in general. Why this occurs can be blamed on the people who abused such laws and decided to use them for their benefits: two of the characters in WATER, a film that vibrates not only color but passions just underneath the surface will question that in their own ways. Shakuntala Didi, a woman who at first seems hovering on only one-note -- bitterness -- and Narayana, the heir of a wealthy family, who has met Mohandas Gandhi (the movie is set in 1938) and has taken in his liberal approach that widows, too, must experience love -- the postulate of tolerance.

While Shakuntala and Narayana meet furtively early in the movie, they don't interact until much later, and the catalyst for this to happen is a little girl named Chuyia, who has been brought to the ashram to live as a widow. She cannot comprehend the scope of the kind of life that awaits her and to see her getting her long hair shaved and her spirits progressively crushed even when she openly defies the prison that surrounds her is painful. Even so, her presence lights up the ashram in more ways than one. Without knowing, she upsets the ordinance of the ashram and suggests the spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction that must be in the minds of people who can't understand why do they have to be the forgotten ones.

Chuyia forges a quick friendship with a young woman named Kalyani and by accident, both meet Narayana, who is taken with Kalyani. What he doesn't know is that she is being pimped to other men who will pay for her services and keep the ashram running by the monstrous Manorma, who runs the ashram like a brothel while preaching the laws of Manu. It's the double-standard of life in the ashram where the story denounces the atrocity of this "law": it forces women into a segregated society while the "prettier" ones are laid out as bait for those who will pay money for them. He and Kalyani do fall in love, but her situation is a barrier more to her than to him because she feels like damaged goods even when in an emotional scene he lets her know she is the one he loves.

But the legacy of abuse is strong, and it now threatens to hover over Chuyia. Shakuntala, who throughout the movie experiences the most character change while barely emoting over her smooth face, dovetails her storyline with Narayana, and in a moment of rebellion underlying a subtle feminism, takes action to ensure that if not for herself, at least for the new generation, there might be some hope. WATER touches some very delicate subject matter at this point, but it's done with so much taste that the horror becomes more real. More so, when realizing that this practice still occurs today, in the 21st Century, and that even though times apparently have changed, they haven't. Even so, WATER is an important film that through its overwhelming beauty and lush setting expresses the casual horror of religious abuse -- a cry against this ultimately inhumane system.
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10/10
Heartbreak house
jotix10019 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's 1938 in India. We first see the young Chuyia in a cart where a man, who appears to be sick, is being taken away for treatment. When he dies, we watch as Chuyia's bangles are broken with a stone from her wrist by her mother and her head is shaved. The next thing we witness is Chuyia arriving at a house where she has been placed to be among other widows, a curse in that culture.

Chuyia, an impish child of great vitality, is the youngest among all the women that occupy that unhappy home. Shakuntala, who appears to be in charge of the house, likes the girl, but she wants to impress the child in what is expected of her. Chuyia also meets the beautiful Kalyani, a ravishing creature who spends most of her time by herself in a room on the second floor. Kalyani and Chuyia bond because both have experienced the same fate, as the older girl came to the house also when she was young.

Kalyani is also the one that is bringing some money into the house because she is being exploited by the older women as a prostitute. Kalyani is taken at night for trysts with local wealthy men. When Narayan, the young handsome man from a rich family, discovers the beautiful Kalyani, it's love at first sight. Kalyani also experiences for the first time a kind of love she never knew existed. Unfortunately, their love is doomed from the start. Changes are coming to India quickly by way of the great work of Ghandi, who is the inspiration for the liberation of the country.

Deepa Mehta, the director of "Water", has created a film of exquisite beauty that is not afraid to tackle the hypocrisy of how widows are treated cruelly by their society. Even though the action took place as India was being liberated from the British, it appears not much has changed since this practice is still exists. Ms. Mehta's film deals with the injustice in ways that surprise us. Other film makers wouldn't dare to go where Ms. Mehta goes, perhaps with the exception of Mira Nair, another Indian director whose films take a different approach to their culture.

The best thing in the film is young Sarala, who as Chuyia steals our hearts. We respond to her plight because to our way of thinking it's inconceivable to subject a young girl to be banished from her family in the way this girl does. It's cruel to allow these children to be married when they would be better off being children and stealing a childhood from them.

The lovely Lisa Ray plays Kalyani, a woman of such radiant beauty that she sticks out like a sore thumb from the company of these unfortunate dwellers of that unhappy house. John Abraham is perfect as Narayan, with his handsome looks. Seema Biswas is also effective as the only woman who is kind to the young Chuyia.

Deepa Mehta shows again she is not afraid to explore any subjects that are deemed taboo in her culture. Ms. Mehta continues to surprise with each new movie.
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10/10
The film is lovely in the way Satyajit Ray's films are lovely and the best elements of Water involve the young girl and the experiences seen through her eyes@ R. Ebert.
Fella_shibby5 March 2016
This is perhaps one of the most gripping films I have ever seen. The theme of water is so beautifully intertwined with the story in the location shots, boats across a lake/river and the ever falling rain to deliver an impact upon the characters and their journey.

The treatment of these widows, and the intense life that these women are forced to live was eye opening.

John Abraham gave a good performance. Lisa Ray was decent. Chuiya was great. With its top-notch acting, cinematography and music, Water is definitely worth the watch. Excellent effort by Deepa Mehta. Awesome cinematography Giles Nuttgens. Nicely edited by Colin Monie. Screenplay by Anurag Kashyap was awesome so were his dialogues. Set decoration by Rumana hamied n Lal harindranath was brilliant. Good music by Mychael Danna n A.R Rehman. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times @ The film is lovely in the way Satyajit Ray's films are lovely and the best elements of Water involve the young girl and the experiences seen through her eyes.
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7/10
Oppressed are their own worst suppressors
Magic Lamp13 January 2009
In the trilogy, Earth/Fire/Water, Water seems to be the weakest. It lacks the solidity and primal emotions of Earth. It lacks the pizazz and snappiness of Fire. The movie has some great scenes and themes but it appeared jilted, more like icebergs floating rather than flowing river water. The broad message of the movie seems to be to keep your inner voice alive and listen to it. Corruption and atrophied culture can suck away and drain positive life energy. Social systems cannot always be believed in and relied upon.

The movie showcases the conflict faced by the near-dead widows with their desire. Their world becomes this constant inner struggle of life force Vs hopelessness, temptation Vs enforced chastity. This is contrasted with the wasted indulgence of curators of culture, who prey on their victims and consequently hollow their inner self. There is hope and new energy in youth. Desire to make a difference, to shed old meaningless ways of living.

John and Lisa were not the best choice for the roles. They bring in dead-pan expressions/delivery and add unnecessary glamour which takes away from the solemnity of the movie. Seema Biswas delivers.
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Drenched in something
federovsky19 December 2008
There's an affected grandeur to this which comes from its stagey feel, like a David Lean film, or rather those of Merchant-Ivory (themselves scions of Lean). There is also more than a touch of Asian "aesthetic cinema" (such as Tran's "Vertical Ray of the Sun") in which every scene has to be ridiculously picturesque (for goodness' sake, must we have those garlands framing every shot?).

It purports to be an issues film - the issue being the lives of Indian widows who have to retire from society into a refuge for the rest of their lives - even in the case of toddlers who were betrothed and widowed in their minority. Heavy possibilities here, but any potential for serious treatment is quickly abandoned in favour of a romantic mushiness of quite cosmic banality.

Water appears in many guises throughout, but there's no meaning to it, just empty imagery. I could start this review again and rejudge the film according to a lower set of intellectual standards, but then I would just say that it is nice to look at and is engagingly told, when it could have been so much more.
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8/10
Good Film but Wrong Generalisation
toro111 July 2007
This movie is not banned in India as said in some of the reviews. I have watched the movie on a legal DVD. It was released in movie theatres too. Like most of the other reviewers I too found it to be a great movie. I was disturbed for some days after watching this movie. But I must also add that the depiction of widows in the movie is not representative of Hindu community as of today. No one of my generation here talks of or is aware of Manu's Laws on which this movie is based. I come from a fairly conservative small town Hindu family . But I do not remember my widowed aunts, grandmothers or cousins being treated in the way depicted in this movie. None of them was banished to live in an 'ashram'. They stayed at home and led a quite but dignified life. A cousin of mine who lost her husband in an accident was remarried by her parents! I am not an ultra-rightist. I too deplore the harassment Deepa Mehta faced while shooting in Varanasi. But through this review I wanted to give a balanced picture especially to the western movie goers.
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8/10
Ironically, Water is one of the most undiluted films of all times. Take a divine dip and you might perhaps get rinsed of all your cinematic sins.
xpics24 March 2007
OK, so Water didn't win the Oscar. Neither did Lagaan, Salaam Bombay or Mother India. Doesn't matter. Deepa Mehta's third installment in the trilogy on the elemental series after Fire and Earth (if you could ignore the formulaic Bollywood Hollywood) is a superlative cinematic experience. Its sheer sanctity and authenticity bowls you over.

Water is an extraordinary film for several reasons. Firstly being its stark theme and its virgin treatment. Water is the same film that Deepa Mehta started in the year 2000 with Akshay Kumar and Shabana Azmi (for which Shabana even shaved her head). The film was later stalled due to political interference by the moral police. The film was restarted with John Abraham and Seema Biswas in 2004 and subsequently shot in Sri Lanka with a fake title of 'Full Moon' to avoid any more attention and interference. The film is set in India in the pre-independence era of 1940s but primarily talks about the plight of widows in the country then.

The film shocks in its first frame itself where it reads the laws for widows from the sacred scriptures that says 'A widow should either burn in the pyre of her husband, or marry her husband's younger brother or lead a life of self-restraint and be long suffering until death'. Cut in to a scene when an endearing 7-year old girl is told that she has turned a widow. If child-marriage was not an issue enough, she will now be forced to shave off her head and lead her entire life with self-restraint in an ashram for no fault of hers.

This ashram is headed by Madhumati (Manorama) where widows of all ages are abandoned by their families. 7-year-old Chuyia (Sarla) is one such unfortunate innocent child. Over here she forms a bond with Shakuntala (Seema Biswas). Kalyani (Lisa Ray) is the only widow from the ashram who is allowed to keep her hair as her beauty and body is set on sale to obtain funds to run the ashram. Narayan (John Abraham) a follower of Gandhian principles who lives in the same village falls in love with Kalyani. Going against her mother's (Waheeda Rehman) wish he decides to marry Kalyani. But in a strange turn of incident life changes for him.

One element that adds authenticity to Water is its choice of Hindi language. The director despite being from Canada doesn't get carried away by other filmmakers in the league who make movies for an international audience and use English language in a complete Hindi setting that looks both forced and fake. Add to it Anurag Kashyup's chaste Hindi dialogues that enriches the feel of the film. The art direction of the film with the setting of the 40s is simply impeccable. One hasn't seen a more credible ambiance than this created in a film since Mira Nair's Kama Sutra. A.R.Rahman's music does justice to the film. No musician can strike a chord with the period setting of the film like Rahman.

Deepa Mehta's well-etched screenplay and strongly defined characters makes you live every scene, every moment in the film. Just for example you feel remorse for a 90-year-old widow (played by Vidula Javalgekar) in the film who craves for sweets throughout the film and the last time she remembers she had had them was during her marriage at the age of 7.

A highpoint of the film is its climax. While many filmmakers start their narratives strongly and grab your attention, they tend to lose focus towards the climax and are unable to handle it skillfully. Deepa Mehta maintains a consistency in her film and gives a good culmination to the plot with a connection to Mahatma Gandhi.

You are simply amazed by the vision of Deepa Mehta for casting a mainstream commercial actor like John Abraham who is a youth icon in jeans and glares, in a dhoti-clad role of a Gandhi follower in 1938. And whatever the critics have to say about him, John does justice to his character. You heart goes out for the charming Lisa Ray as an unfortunate widow trapped by her ill fate. With this film one wonders why don't we get to see more of this actress who has tremendous potential if tapped appropriately. Seema Biswas brings as much conviction to her character as much she does to her role by shaving off her head for the film. This is perhaps her best performance since Bandit Queen. Raghubir Yadav as the eunuch is as dependable as always.

But the highlight of the film are two players. If you don't have a keen eye, perhaps you won't recognize Manorama, the vamp of yesteryear films, who makes her return with this film. The gaudy actress known for her boisterous roles in the 70s arguably gives her career's best performance till date. Her body language, dialect and vicious command as the madam of the house are outstanding. And last but not the least is the child actress Sarla. If you thought Ayesha Kapoor of Black was the best child artist you ever witnessed on screen, check Sarla and you will know how naturally she seeps into the character of Chuyia. The young girl almost lives her part without any inhibitions or ambiguity, whatsoever.

Ironically, Water is one of the most undiluted films of all times. Take a divine dip and you might perhaps get rinsed of all your cinematic sins.
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9/10
A truth
ravisverma26 January 2007
This is not the country but certain class of that country which doesn't want to see the truth.It is a brutal truth about the culture, how society cared about the widows in the past centuries. Now film is nominated for the 2006 Academy award. This will be a slap on the faces of those bunches of clowns, who made the film an issue for their cheap popularity. Film is outstanding and definitely deserves recognition. I saw other films which has the good work of Giles Nuttgens as a cinematographer, like "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", "Fire", "Earth" and some other TV films, but he show his charisma through the lenses in "Water". It's all Deepa Mehta, who is best in story telling and pulling best out of her cast. Even small characters "Gulabi" (Raghuvir Yadav) and "Madhumati" (Manorama) show the presence. Undoubtedly, Lisa Ray's work was the best. She is good actress hidden in astounding beauty. She expressed every feeling in each frame beautifully sometime even without speaking at all. We just need good story tellers. Though India makes about 3 movies in a day on an average not of any world standards, but certainly we have stories of world class. Disrespect about widow is a truth in India. It happened in the '30s and is still happening today. If you disagree, write me back, I can send you as many pictures of those places as you want. Good job Deepa! Some time people like you make me proud to be an Indian.
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9/10
One of 2005's best!
It is hard to find fault with this film. Knowing the labour of love and courage it was for Deepa Mehta (her sets were burned down in protest on location in India and she had to eventually move everything to Sri Lanka) makes it also extremely poignant.

I was at a showing where there was a deep shocked silence at the end of it all when we realized that 31 million Hindi widows in India are kept in appalling circumstances such as those depicted on screen.

Their families no longer want to keep them and some of these widows have been 'married' as very young children. As one of the characters says in the movie, it is all about the money in fundamentalism.

Faith and truth and God are made more compassionate in the emerging era of Ghandi (the film takes place in the 30's)and some of the old beliefs are being swept away when Ghandi states that God is not truth but Truth is God. The leads are well cast though a little "whited up" for North American audiences.

Some of the scenes are joyful and the use of colour is stunning. There wasn't a dry eye in the screening I was at and I won't introduce spoilers as this is a film that should be seen without any plot insight. The locations are beautiful and so is the supporting cast.

The powerful message here is that all fundamentalism is intrinsically about the control of a few who interpret their Holy Books to suit their purposes while millions struggle in degradation and powerlessness.

9 out of 10. Why is this not even nominated for Best Foreign Film?

Brava Deepa!!
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5/10
Tragic theme undermined by clichés
edwardmbrown19 March 2015
This film takes on a tragic theme-- the plight of widows in India. Unfortunately it is so riddled with clichés that, for me at least, it's impact was undermined. An eight year old girl wakes up to be told by her father that she is a widow. She is taken to an ashram to live with a group of mostly old women, also widows. Among them is a young, beautiful and rather European looking widow. There is a love story with a handsome, idealistic man, who is willing to break taboos to marry a widow. Set in 1938 the film tries to portray the conflict with old traditions and modernity. Gandhi even gets a cameo. While Water is beautifully filmed, in the end I felt that I had watched a piece of glossy propaganda, albeit for a good cause.
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9/10
Beautifully shown
Vash21 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a poignant and beautiful movie. Although filmed in Sri Lanka, the venue is Varanasi, a holy city in India. The use of water throughout (as river, rain, and other ways) and the cinematography are exquisite. We see the plight of widows in 1938 in this part of India through the eyes of an 8 year old child widow Chuiya. All the characters - the other widows where Chuiya is sent to spend the rest of her life, and the others in the society, including Narayan- a young man who falls in love with a young widow Kalyani, his family and friends, and the Hindu priest who acts as a glue between the scriptures and the masses- are well done. The acting is subtle and sensitive. The relationship between Kalyani and Narayan is shown beautifully and with restraint, as are the relationships between the different widows. Even a sad movie like this has its lighter moments- the humor is used well. Deepa Mehta has done a great job as a director.

I have a couple of complaints, although minor ones. First, Lisa Ray who acts as the young widow Kalyani, was the wrong choice for this role. She does not look Indian, even though she learned the gestures and body language of rural Indian widows. Ray is a Canadian with an Indian born parent, and she does a fine job with the Hindi language. However, she does not look 'Kalyani', an Indian woman.

The second problem I have with this movie is that it creates an impression that all widows in India are treated like the characters in this movie, and that the situation has not changed since 1938 (I doubt that the situation was like this in ALL parts of India even in the 1930's).

Child marriages were made illegal several decades ago (soon after India became independent). One has to remember that this movie shows a certain segment of a society in a small geographical region of the country. Unfortunately the tendency of viewers is to generalize about the whole country, and that is the only major negative I see about this movie. The other part is about the Hindu religion itself. Every religion has its abusers and we see some of them in this movie. It can create a wrong and biased picture of the religion. May be the resistance to the making of this movie in India had something to do with it. I understand that it was eventually released in India. I don't know what the reaction upon viewing the movie was.

As a work of art, as a story, this is a beautifully made movie. I would highly recommend it, but I warn the viewer not to generalize about a country or a culture or a religion based on this one movie. Just enjoy the unfolding of the story on the screen.
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10/10
Reality or Fiction ? Find here...
Sandeep BS25 January 2007
Well let me tell right upfront , I am from India and Water is banned in India . I saw this movie by downloading through torrent .

This movie is the greatest movie by Deepa Mehta ,right from the direction to the cinematography is awesome . Regarding the subject , i can vouch that the events shown in this film is true to the last pixel(I myself have seen my late great grandmother leaving by manu principles after her husbands death but it was unforced and she spent the rest of her life in her residence itself). But starting from our previous generation this is not followed even a bit, let me assure you that.

The movie was disturbed by Hindu Extremists supported by leading political parties and the movie was shot in Sri lanka at later stages due to this reason .

This movie deserves to win an Oscar . If not it needs to be shown to extremists ,So that instead of spending there energy on preventing the movie from getting released , they can focus there energy on routing this evil completely from our society.
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10/10
Simply mind-blowing !!
pritesh32520 November 2006
Simply mind-blowing, brilliant direction .... it is a poignant tale of hapless widows in the earlier past in the holy city of Benaras in India. The movie starts with a verse from an ancient hindu 'granth' (scripture) manu and shows how widowed womens are left to die by their families, where they survive in some 'sarai'(rented house) reciting 'ram-naam' devoid of all the worldly pleasures. The only hope for them is to die and get freed from this vicious circle of life and death ?? The movie brilliantly portrays the characters of these women. Through the character of Chuhiya (meaning rat in Hindi) the director shows how these little girls are first married at this tender age and when their husbands die they are left on themselves in one of these sarai. The character of Chuhiya is most touching of all, portraying her initial hope that one day her 'amma' (mummmy) will come and take her out of that hell and then how she matures and starts to understand that the sarai and white clothes were her fate now. While the character of Chuhiya portrays the initial days of a widow in this new world of their own, the character of Patiraji portrays the final days of a widow waiting for the 'yamaraj' (god of death) to come and free her and so is another touching character. I would recommend this movie for the brilliant direction and novel story. See for yourself the truth (dont know how much) ...
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9/10
Deepa's third element...Water
toomuchisgood10 June 2006
Water, the essence of life itself has once again been captured by the vivid creativity from Deepa Metha. As per her previous works, such as Earth and Fire, Metha has masterfully depicted the period where widows in India are forbidden from worldly desires and bound by social restrictions, in order to gain passage to heaven, as per the Laws of Manu (Sacred Hindu Texts).

For me, this film has been a long wait, and one that was worth waiting for. I must be honest and say I had many expectations, to all Deepa has succumbed.

The performances of Lisa Ray and young talent Sarala could not be any more realistic than you could ask for, from beginning to end. John Abraham was subtle but convincing indeed. Each character played a significant role in the film, continuity was very good, lighting and mood was excellent. In addition to, the musical score was appropriately orchestrated to set the scenes, if not, the entire film itself.

A gallery of images could be put on display from many of the sensuous scenes...no captions required for they speak for themselves.

The film has really touched me on a personal level as my Grandmother was once a widow herself bound by such laws and tradition. I never could empathise with her until now. Deepa has given me the opportunity to understand from my Grandmother's perspective in such a vivid awe, thankyou Deepa Metha.

Keep in mind, if you hadn't heard, Deepa had to fight to make this film, as the locals on site where the scenes were shot, weren't to supporting of her work as there are traditional values at risk. I praise you Deepa Metha for completing the film and hope you continue to shed light to the rest of the world.
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7/10
A clichéd and manipulative plot
Howard Schumann13 March 2006
According to the ancient Hindu Laws of Manu: a wife has only three options upon the death of her husband: She must burn with his remains, remarry his younger brother, or live the remainder of her life in self-denial. The third film in a trilogy that explores religious hypocrisy, Canadian filmmaker Deepak Mehta's Water is an eloquent protest against the maltreatment of Indian widows, some as young as seven years old, who are condemned to live a life of penitence and deprivation. The shooting of Water in India was interrupted in 2000 by Hindu fundamentalists who staged protests, destroyed sets, and forced the production to shut down and move to Sri Lanka.

Set in India in 1938 along the River Ganges, Water chronicles the lives of several widows against the backdrop of the rise to prominence of Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent campaign for liberation. Recently widowed 8-year old Chuyia, played by the outstanding Sri Lankan actress Sarala, is sent by her family to a house for widows where her head is shaved and she must wear a white sari to let others know of her status. Chuyia meets the overbearing Madhumati (Manorma), the "mother" figure who raises money for the ashram by sending young girls across the River Ganges to be prostitutes. She is gently opposed by Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) who tries to protect the girls without openly denying the traditions.

Kalyani (Lisa Ray) is one of the girls used by Madhumati but she still manages to maintain a youthful innocence and beauty. Chuyia and Kalyani become friends and while walking in the village, accidentally meet Narayana, a young law student (John Abraham) who is active in the movement for Indian liberation. He fiercely opposes the hypocrisy involved in isolating widows and condemning them as untouchables. He tells Kalyani that the issue is one not of religion but of money: "One less mouth to feed", he says, "four less saris, and a free corner in the house. Disguised as religion, it's just about money," Narayana and Kalyani fall in love and he asks her to marry him in spite of the opposition of his family and society, a situation that leads to unfortunate consequences.

In Water, Mehta employs the humanist tradition of Satyajit Ray with expressive Indian music enhancing the emotions of the characters, but also bodily lifts the character of Auntie from Pather Panchali and the movie struggles for an original style. While Water is beautiful to look at and embodies an important message, it is ultimately defeated by a very conventional style, a clichéd and manipulative plot, and some larger than life characters who never come alive as real human beings.
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