Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Seema Biswas, Sarala, Buddhi Wickrama
Director: Deepa Mehta
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Extremist groups waged a campaign of death threats, arson and riots to stop the production of this controversial film, but director Deepa Mehta would not be silenced. Set against Gandhi's rise to power, Water tells the pro... more »
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Pam M. from MANCHESTER, CT
Reviewed on 2/9/2013...
This is a beautiful movie with a poignant story. The story centers around an 8 year old widow, yes you read that right, who is outcast from her family and sent to live in an impoverished ashram with other widows as is and was the tradition in India. The story is set in the 1930s against a backdrop of the rise of Mahatma Gandi It has many light moments, but there is no getting around the message. Apparently the filmmaker had to deal with death threats, arson, and riots to get this story told.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Toni B. (twintoni) from ORANGE PARK, FL
Reviewed on 4/10/2009...
A story set in India in 1938 about the treatment of widows. Very engrossing and heart-wrenching. A beautiful movie.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
A Social Conscious Film of Uncommon Beauty.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 09/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Water" is the third film in writer/director Deepa Mehta's elemental trilogy, following "Fire" and "Earth". It explores the plight of widows in traditional Hindu culture, where women are condemned to a grim, rudimentary existence after their husbands die. Driven by characters as much as by its cause, this is not a bleak film. On the contrary, "Water" is breathtakingly beautiful. In India in 1938, young Chuyia (Sarala) is widowed at the age of 8. By religious law, when a man dies, his wife may either be cremated with him, marry his brother, or live the life of an ascetic -chaste, poor, and pious. Chuyia's head is shaved, her jewelry removed, and she is sent to live in an ashram with other widows of all ages. She is befriended by a pretty widow named Kalyani (Lisa Ray), watched over by the devout and generous Shakuntula (Seema Biswas), and often at odds with the ashram's callous matriarch Madhumati (Manorama), who pays the rent by prostituting Kalyani. A handsome law student with progressive politics, Narayan (John Abraham), is smitten by Kalyani. But it is sinful for widows to remarry, and Kalyani is a prostitute besides.
The story of making "Water" is a drama in itself. Filming in India in 2000 was shut down by violent protests by religious fundamentalists, who believed the film was anti-Hindu. Deepa Mehta's view is that a misinterpretation of religious texts has perpetuated the dreadful state of widows in Indian culture, which is actually the result of economics. If a widow is sent away upon the death of her husband, her own family does not have to pay to feed or house her, and her would-be inheritance remains in her husband's family. In any case, there were riots, Deepa Mehta was burned in effigy, and the film's sets were thrown into the river. Four years later, the film was recast and the production moved to Sri Lanka, where filming began again. All of the temples and buildings that you see are sets by production designer Dilip Mehta. Sarala, who plays Chuyia, is Sri Lankan and does not speak a word of Hindi. She learned all of her lines phonetically. Somehow that doesn't even seem odd amid this international cast and creative crew.
Giles Nuttgens' cinematography is a force in this film. Everything appears so alive and luminous that I wanted to step into this world to be bathed in its beautiful light and touch its delicate features. The light has a striking purity. The film's score by Canadian Mychael Danna and songs by Indian composer A.R. Rahman are an ideal auditory accompaniment to "Water"'s visual splendor. Although it focuses our attention on the plight of widows in India, "Water" is not a realistic film on the narrative level. Kalyani and Narayan are idealized characters. She is pure, lovely, and suffering. He educated, and socially progressive. To Narayan, Kalyani is a romantic figure, a fragile, innocent soul in need of rescuing. The idea that a wealthy, educated man would want to marry an illiterate peasant prostitute who will never understand his causes or his world view seems far-fetched. But Kalyani's reticence and Narayan's sensitivity draw us in. Narayan is a change of pace for John Abraham, who is an Indian supermodel and Bollywood star. Lisa Ray is Canadian, also a supermodel in India, but Hindi is not her first language. Director Deepa Mehta has a real talent for casting the perfect actors from seemingly unlikely choices.
For all of Kalyani and Narayan's beauty and sympathy, "Water" is not their film. Shakuntula is the character who has an arc, and Seema Biswas gives the film's great performance. She personifies the conflict between conscience and faith that is at "Water"'s core. (You many remember Seema Biswas from her lead role in "Bandit Queen".) Manorama, who has acted in an extraordinary 1301 movies, is memorably sharp as the matriarch Madhumati. Professor of Hindi literature Dr. Vidula Javalgekar plays the kindly, sweet-toothed, elderly widow Patiraji, a woman who must be very unlike herself. "Water" is simply a gorgeous sensory experience that movie-lovers won't want to miss. In Hindi (and some Sanskrit) with English or Spanish subtitles or English captions.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): "Behind the Scenes" (20 min) includes interviews with writer/director Deepa Mehta and the cast. Mehta talks about the controversy surrounding the film and its themes. The actors discuss Mehta's directing style, mastering the period mannerisms, and their characters. "The Story Behind the Making of Water" (4 min) is about the controversy and the ill-fated first attempt to film "Water". There is a good, continuous audio commentary by Deepa Mehta in which discusses the sets, actors, character development, cinematography and lighting, the film's score, and provides additional information about Indian culture."
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 05/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Water" is a beautiful, tragic, sad, emotionally available film about the deplorable situation in India in regards to its many millions of widows: who are segregated into Ashrams, forced to beg in the street, some into prostitution to support the Ashram and are viewed as if not Untouchable...then unavailable for remarriage.
"Water" focuses on the beautiful very young, as in 9 years old, Chuyia (Sarala), Kalayani (Lisa Ray), both widows and Narayana (John Abraham): a young Ghandhi follower in love with Kalayani.
The time is 1938, India is in social, political and religious upheaval but director Deepa Mehta uses this as only a backdrop for her very personal and tragic story. At times, though her agenda is without a doubt important, Mehta's approach is too overwrought, too heavy-handed. But her film is so gorgeous and her mise en scene so much about the cleansing qualities of color: turquoises, lemon yellows, scarlet reds, lime greens...that most of this didactic quality can be forgiven.
Water can cleanse, Water can heal, Water brings forth life and renewal and "Water" is full of these images but it is also about Hope for the future and Redemption through the restorative power of Love.
A Moving Portrait of Life in Rural India
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 06/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I was in film school, I remember a professor showing an Indian film called "Panther Panchali". Despite the terrible print, I could see director Satyajit Ray was an artist. "Panchali" is a beautiful film about a poor Indian family living through the monsoon season. I then went on to discover some of his other films. A couple of years ago, Merchant Ivory hosted a retrospective of Ray's films and these restored prints are available on DVD. You are depriving yourself if you do not watch these films.
As I watched "Water", the new film from director Deepa Mehta, I was constantly reminded of Ray's films. The composition, pacing, subject matter and acting style are all the same.
Chuyia (Ronica Sajnani Sarala), a seven year old girl, finds she has become a widow; her arranged husband has died leaving her adrift in a society that favors men. Religious law dictates if she lives a chaste life she will join her husband in heaven. Of course, she doesn't know or understand any of this when her family takes her to a home, to live with other widows. She soon meets the matriarch of the house, Sadananda (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), a fat woman who eats the most food, Shakuntala (Seema Biswas), a bitter woman who shows some compassion to Chuyia and Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a young woman who is allowed to grow her hair out and meet `clients' to help support the house. Soon, Chuyia meets Narayana (John Abraham), a bachelor from a rich family who is instantly attracted to Kalyani. As their relationship grows, there are murmurs of Gandhi leading the Indian people to independence from Britain.
Deepa Mehta has crafted a beautiful film depicting a sad reality in India's history. As one character states, families used this religious practice to free themselves of a financial burden and another mouth to feed. In this belief, there are three ways of dealing with a widow; marry her to a younger brother of the deceased male, have her join her husband on the funeral pyre, or banish her to a house to live with other widows until she dies and rejoins her husband in Heaven. Of course, if a wife dies, the husband is free, encouraged to remarry. After Mehta establishes the details of this practice, she introduces us to the main characters, the people who will inhabit the story we are about to watch. There are people from every generation in this house; "Auntie" is an elderly widow who still dreams of the sweets she had at her wedding, when she was seven, Sadananda seems to be a gang leader, or pimp, sending Kalyani out to meet married men, to help support the house and her eating habits. Sadly, every generation is represented.
The growing relationship between Kalyani and Narayana is very believable and touching. Indian tradition and the difficulties of Kalyani's position dictate they must behave in a certain way. But Narayana is a modern Indian man and he soon tells his mother he and Kalyani will be married. When his mother finds out his intended bride is a widow, she is shocked and won't allow it. But Narayana has no doubt that he will wed his lover, all it takes is some convincing.
As the story moves towards its emotional climax, Shakuntala becomes the voice of reason. She helps Kalyani get out of the house to meet her lover and eventually helps other members of the house.
Mehta composes every shot with a painter's eye. Vivid colors poke out throughout every frame, colors so bright they appear to be painted on the screen. As we watch these characters struggle to live in the house, they make infrequent trips outside to bathe, walk, and experience. Inside the house, everyone wears a sari made of the same natural cloth and everything is rather drab. But as they explore the neighboring community, we see women wearing bright saris, vivid flowers and bright gold, copper and silver. The difference between the two worlds is very noticeable and helps to contrast the living conditions of the two different groups.
Ray used the same attention to detail in his films creating beautiful compositions in black and white.
Both filmmakers chose similar subject matter. Like Ray before her, Mehta has chosen a fairly simple, straight forward story. Because the story doesn't have a lot of distractions, it allows you to concentrate on the characters and give them your attention. The actors provide vivid, interesting portrayals that compliment the story.
"Water" is a very good film. Search it out and you will be rewarded.