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 Water (Review By Martin D-Souza)
Director :
Music :
Lyrics :

Starring :
 Deepa Mehta
 A R Rahman
 Sukhwinder Singh, Raqueeb Alam.
 Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Sarala, Raghuveer Yadav.

By Martin D'Souza, Bollywood Trade News Network Send to Friend

There’s a lot of fire in Deepa Mehta’s WATER. Stuck for inexplicable (read political) reasons, the audiences in India had to wait a long time for this Oscar nominated film to finally see first-hand the movie that had already created ripples world-wide. Truly, this film deserved the Oscar trip for its sheer brilliance in the portrayal of the plight of the widows in the 1930s.

The film begins with nine-year-old Chuyia (Sarala) entering the ‘widows’ house’ and ends with Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) handing over a traumatised Chuyia to Narayan (John Abraham) as he leaves on the train with Gandhiji. The film takes time to catch up and then races along gripping the viewer, nay angering him, with the atrocities heaped on women. And when Chuyia is taken to a rich seth, and the girl says “I have come to play”, not knowing what’s in store for her, you feel like choking the man as your heart goes out to the girl about to be ‘mauled’. Deepa Mehta evokes these emotions and more as the story unfolds.

The year is 1938, India is ruled by the British, and it is around this time that Mohandas K. Gandhi has arrived from Africa to begin his tryst with the British, as well as battle the traditions that bind the Hindus. Not yet in her teens, Chuyia (Sarala) is married to a much older and sickly male, who shortly after the marriage, passes away. Chuyia is returned unceremoniously to her parents' house, and from there she is taken to the holy city of Benaras and left in the care of the widows who live at “the widows' house,” shunned by the rest of the community.

Chuyia believes that her mother will come to take her home. Here she meets several elderly women, including the head of the house, Madhumati (Manorama); a quiet, confident woman named Shakuntala (Seema Biswas); and a gorgeous young woman, Kalyani (Lisa Ray) -- all widows. Chuyia does not know that according to Holy Hindu Scriptures she has been destined to live here for the rest of her life, for when a woman’s husband dies, she has three options: One, to marry her husband’s younger brother, if his family permits; two, to kill herself on his funeral pyre; three, to live a life of celibacy, discipline, and solitude amongst her own kind.

A new law in India which permits a widow to re-marry is not popular, and it is these customs and openly welcoming the lower castes that will pit Gandhiji against his very own people, apart from struggling with the British to leave India. Kalyani meets and falls in love with young Narayan, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, who wants to marry her, despite his mother’s protests. But on the day he comes to take her to his home, as they are crossing the river to his family estate, Kalyani recognises the house, the very same one she had been forced to visit as a ‘prostitute’, to be with Narayan’s father.

Here is where Kalyani holds steadfast in her love for Narayan. Not wanting to marry in the family she has been shamed she decides to kill herself even before Narayan comes back to take her home.

Kudos to the director for handling such a sensitive subject with such clarity, that it leaves one numb with disbelief. Sarala, clearly is the star, displaying anger and quiet innocence like a seasoned actor. In her, the other widows see the children they once were and the child they will never have.

Lisa Ray, subdued and resigned to her fate, like the other widows, packs a punch in her performance. This probably is John Abraham’s best role to date. The screenplay is superb and dialogues by Anurag Kashyap deserve a special mention. Every character plays its role without overshadowing the others. This is the director’s forte. This apart, even the smallest detail has been taken care of which transports the viewer back in time.

A must-see for every lover of intelligent cinema. Moreso, because it highlights a plight that we all wish to see the end of.

Ratings: 5/5

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More about Water (Review By Martin D-Souza)
- Music Review
- Interview: Deepa Mehta
- Picture Gallery: Water Press Meet