What a shocking movie! I'm so glad this movie, 'Water', is set in India, and unfolds in the late 1930's; in the present day context it would be utterly unthinkable to imagine that anyone could perpetrate or be accomplice to a crime so heinous, on minds and bodies so young and so innocent! What's worse is that the act is committed in compliance with social norms!
I really wouldn't want to give away even the slightest bit of the plot because it would lessen the impact of the movie, but I would like to commend the three actresses who gave some evocative performances as 'Chuhiya' the bubbly nine year old, 'Kalyani' the unbelievably beautiful 19 year old, and 'Didi' the philosophic 50 year old. The three come together in the movie to spend a life of penance in an 'aashram' for widows on the holy banks of the River Ganges.
There were certain things that puzzled me when I watched this movie, and that was more because of my limited knowledge about India at the time so it is vital that the viewer know some of these facts about India:
a. India was a British colony until 1947
b. child marriage was common at the time
c. Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in getting India its freedom and also for bringing about various social reforms in the country
d. a caste system was prevalent in India at the time and this was the heirarchy:
- the 'brahmin, at the top of the social heirarchy, was 'the teacher' the one with the exclusive knowledge of the Hindu scriptures
- the 'kshatriya' was second in line, and was the ruler who was responsible for guarding the kingdom
- the 'vaishya' was third, and he was the trader within the kingdom
- the 'shudra' was the worker who did not own property and worked for one of three higher classes
- the 'uchoot' was the lowest class who handled the sanitary facilities and was thus the untouchable
- inter caste marriages were forbidden
- 'uchoots' were outcasts
- you were born into a caste and you could never change that.
Deepa Mehta's movie 'Water' is a foreign film from India ,the last in a trilogy ; the earlier two were titled 'Earth' and 'Fire' respectively. Given those titles, obviously there is an underlying theme that Ms. Mehta had in mind; however I've yet to put my finger on why the movie is titled 'Water'. Again, this may be due to my ignorance regarding the ancient Indian scriptures, Hinduism, or perhaps my distance/disconnect with Indian values and beliefs. Regardless of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie; enough to have researched it later and found some interesting facts about it. For instance, Ms. Mehta encountered major resistance in India during the shooting of this film from some Hindu fundamentalist groups who believed that she was misrepresenting Indian heritage and culture. As a result she had to move her entire unit to Sri Lanka and shoot the remaining part of the movie there. Nevertheless all Indians in the US who watched the movie have high praise for it, and are excited about its nomination at the Oscar's. Finally, it'd be interesting to see whether the movie will be screened in India and how it'll be received by the audiences there.
The movie is pitted against greats like 'Pan's Labyrinth' at the Oscars and may not stand much of a chance for various reasons, none of which may have to do with the talent of the movie maker or of the artists who brought it to us, but I certainly give it an A+, and I recommend everyone watch it!