Whoever did the marketing for Water is eternally on my shit list. At the beginning of the preview for Deepa Mehta
’s latest film, it dramatically announces that certain people wanted to suppress it from distribution but, get this, “the filmmakers would not be silenced.” It’s like the back of a Rushdie book that labors on how he was almost killed for his novels: What the hell does that have to do with the movie besides to say its controversial? Knockaround Guys was in the can for a good three or four years before it was released, but that didn’t make it a film of importance nor a film to stop arranging your sock drawer over. At least Water doesn’t count in the same category as that.
) is nine years old and has just lost her husband. If that doesn’t creep you out enough, peep this: Widows, in Hindu culture, were sent to an ashram where they would live till their last day. It's 1930, so this ideology is still commonly considered the norm. Chuyia immediately bonds with a loner in the group, Kalyani (the radiant Lisa Ray
), who hides a puppy in her hut and breaks many other rules of the ashram. One day, when the puppy runs away, they both run into Narayan (John Abraham
), a handsome gentleman with glasses and a penchant for Ghandi. Narayan is persistent in his courting of Kalyani, who by Hindu tradition can not date or get remarried. Finally, she caves in and agrees to marry him, but after the agreement, a strange punch of faith hits her and things get gloomy. Article continues below
Underneath all the ritual and religion, Water is a simple love vs. faith story. Kalyani is soft spoken in her rebellious nature, but she does believe what Hinduism teaches the women. Her friend Shakuntala (a superb Seema Biswas
), works in opposite fashion as she is first held down by belief but then opens up to belief in freedom, brought to a head when she witnesses Ghandi speaking at a train station. Mehta orchestrates these clashes of ideology deftly, especially the side plot involving Gulabi, a man who pimps out the widows to rich men, and the head mistress, Madhumati (Manorma). The love story is simple enough to work and engage the audience, but the real winner here is Mehta and Giles Nuttgens, the cinematographer. Together, they create a luminous world around the controversial lifestyle and rituals of these women.
Coming into Mehta’s “Elemental Trilogy” a novice, I find that her skill at direction far exceeds her writing ability. Although no line sticks out as awkward or painful, there’s nothing to really remember in the language either. The film lingers in your memory for those clear, concise images, like the rain outside Kalyani’s hut that seems to be constantly falling. Hindu fundamentalists will be up in arms, no doubt, but the film is artful in showing the positive side of belief and the negative responses to freedom and free thinking. In other words, it is definitely worth putting off that sock arrangement for one more day.