In 1938 Colonial India, eight year old Chuyia (Sarala) becomes a widow and is sent to an ashram for Hindu widows. She becomes part of the household of 14 women, all of whose heads are shaven except for beautiful Kalyani (Lisa Ray) who works as a prostitute to the rich gentry in Rawalpur. Chuyia does not understand why she cannot go home and becomes friends with Kalyani. One day as she and Kalyani are bathing in the Ganges, they meet Narayan (John Abraham), an idealistic Gandhi follower who has just finished his law degree. There is an instant attraction between Narayan and Kalyani and they fall in love. But widows are forbidden to marry.
Review by Louise Keller:
The third film in Deepa Mehta's elemental trilogy, Water is soulful, pensive and meditative as it explores the clash between faith and conscience in 30s India. With none of the joyous zest for life we encountered in Fire, or the emotional power from Earth, this intense story set in an ashram for widows almost drowns us with sorrow.
Mehta has great power as a filmmaker as she uses sublime imagery and cinematography to engulf us in this harsh environment where the widows (ranging in age from 8 to 80) live a solitary life as outcasts. Though the film is set in the 30s when child marriages were common and women were sent to institutions or ashrams so as not to become financial burdens to their families, it remains relevant and controversial today.
When we first meet eight year old Chuyia (Sarala), it is impossible to comprehend that this little girl with the impish face and liquid gold eyes could possibly be married, let alone a widow. Like her, we are shocked by the environment she realises will be her new home, where women with shaved heads and hearts of stone live in close proximity to each other by necessity, not by choice. But the exquisitely beautiful Kalyani (Lisa Ray) is different. Unlike the other women, Kalyani exudes a serene innocence and in her, Chuyia finds a playmate and friend. And although Kalyani pays for her keep as a prostitute, she has retained her purity, believing that she has learned to live like a lotus flower, untouched by the filth around it. All the performances are excellent and the relationship between Ray's Kalyani and charismatic John Abraham as Narayan, touches us.
Water plays an integral part in the film - it is in the Ganges that the Hindus bathe in order to cleanse themselves of sin. Just as a dog's fleas are washed away, so too are the sins of the world. Water is a powerful statement from an extraordinary filmmaker. This is a film that raises issues rather than resolves them.
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CAST: Sarala, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Waheda Rehman, Yaghubir Yadav, Vinay Pathak, Rishma Malik, with special appearances by Meera Biswas and Deepa Mehta
PRODUCER: David Hamilton
DIRECTOR: Deepa Mehta
SCRIPT: Deepa Mehta
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Giles Nuttgens
EDITOR: Colin Monie
MUSIC: Mychael Danna, A.R. Rahman (songs)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Aradhana Seth
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 13, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: October 4, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.