Saturday, October 28, 2006


Water, the third in a trilogy written and directed by Deepa Mehta, is a moving story about an outcast settlement of Indian widows in the late 1930's, as British colonialism was waning and Gandhi's legend growing. Oppressed by traditional Hindu beliefs which leave only doleful options for widows, Mehta's heartbreaking story unfolds through the fate of three women. At the center is Chuyia (Sarala), an eight-year-old girl who was married to an older man as a young child. Her father, compelled by law, culture and religion, reluctantly abandons her at the widow's temple. There she is befriended by Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a beautiful, spiritual young woman, also married as a young child, and now forced to prostitution to financially support the temple; and Shakantula Didi, middle-aged, bitter and strong-willed, who struggles with conflicts between her faith and her conscience.

Mehta has outspoken opinions regarding India’s history, religion, culture and the plight of widows in her homeland. She makes her points with emotional symbols, and through a deliberately-paced and visually beautiful movie. We are treated to powerful characters made all the more compelling by remarkable performances from a talented cast. Shot on location in Sri Lanka (it's in Hindi with subtitles), the film faced virulent opposition from Hindu traditionalists. Fortunately, Mehta persevered. Water is a tragic but unforgettable movie filled with compassion, tenderness and hope.


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