Water (2005)

Deepa Mehta was born and raised in India before emigrating to Canada in 1973. She has long been one of my favourite film directors, specificially because of her three elements trilogy.

A brief description of the first two films:

Fire, released in 1996, is a controversial exploration of marriage and traditional gender roles in India. It tells the story of two women who, for varying reasons, experience frustration within their arranged marriages and eventually turn to each other for romantic companionship. Upon its release, Hindi fundamentalists attacked the theaters where the film was being screened, and as a result of that, the film was banned in India for a period of time.

Earth, released in 1998, is based on the novel "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa. It is the story of the partition of India as viewed through the eyes of a young Parsi girl living in Lahore, which was historically a multicultural city where Parsi, Sikh, Hindi, and Muslim families made their homes. Via a story between the girl's Hindi Ayah and the competing affections of two Muslim men, Mehta effectively portrays the rising religious tension that was present during the time of partition. This is perhaps the strongest film of the three.

I'm pleased to have been able to view the final film, Water, after being unsure of whether or not it would ever be completed. I've been waiting eagerly for many years, and it was well worth the wait.

Water takes place in 1938 before the partition of India, and it is the story of a young girl who is widowed at the age of seven and sent to live in an ashram for the remainder of her life. Traditionally, it was believed that a woman was half comprised of her husband, and when he died, a part of her died as well. Her choices at the time of his death were to burn on his funeral pyre, to marry her husband's brother, or to live all of her future days without pleasure in an ashram where she would make amends for the sins of her past lives which were said to be the cause of her current husband's death.

In addition to the young girl's story, Mehta also tells the stories of the other widows in the ashram, primarily, Kalyani, a young woman who has also lived in a house of widows since she was a very young girl. Unlike the other widows, her hair has not been cut, because she has been forced into prostitution as a means of supporting the head widow's ganja habit. It is her attempt at finding happiness despite the religious politics of India that acts as the catalyst of the film.

In 2000, Water was originally scheduled to be filmed on location at Varanasi, India where there still exist houses for widows, but the day before the filming began, there were sudden difficulties in obtaining the proper permits. A day later, thousands of Hindi Fundamentalist protesters stormed the set, burning it to the ground and throwing the remains into the Ganges. Mehta also received threats against her life, and at this point, it was clear that the filming could not continue in India. Eventually, the director, was able to continue the production in Sri Lanka, but because of the length of time that had passed between permits, she was forced to recast the film with younger actors. Water was finally shown in theaters in 2005, and it was released on DVD in late August of 2006.

5 comments:

Joseph Krengel said...

Which version of the film did you see? Both are outstanding mind you...

The movie was recorded both in english and Hindi, and there is something about the english audio which makes it sound much more authentic than most films of the sort, although I can't put my finger on it.

Cyan said...

The version that I saw was in Hindi with English subtitles, and it didn't appear to have an English audio track, but I may have overlooked it since I automatically assumed that there wasn't one even though the director and some of the actors are Canadian. Now my curiosity is peaked...

Did you see the other films in the trilogy?

Joseph Krengel said...

I once watched Fire... a long time ago; but I admit that I was drawn in by the word "lesbian" in the flick's description, and not the actual content of the film, so my memory is hazy.

Cyan said...

Boys will be boys... :P

You should see Earth. It's fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Nah... after 25 years, "Earth" is starting to wear on me.