February 25, 2007

Deepa Mehta's 'Water' - The Eternal Equalizer?


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!

20 comments:

D said...

III...like always it was good to read your post. Though a minor correction and some more info...
1. We got our freedom in the year 1947, August 15.
2. Though banned, Child marriage is still common in some parts of India, reason - Dowry.
3. MKG i.e Bapu...father of the nation...coined outcastes ' Harijan', which means sons of Lord Krishna/Vishnu.
4. Caste system is still very much prevalent and today with changing times it is so politicised that it has become a pain for the nation.

Besides I hope it wins the Oscar :-)

Sanjay said...

Loved your post. I have to watch this movie.

Id it is said...

d,
Thank you for your input, I made the corrections.
It's a pity that it didn't win...maybe Ms. mehta's next one will do it.

starry nights said...

I hoped this movie would win an oscar but it did not.Nevertheless i am looking forward to seeing this movie.Have heard so many wonderful things and loved your review.thank you.

EXSENO said...

I saw the trailer on Water a few months ago, so I won't say anything about it and spoil it for your other commenters. I really wanted to see it but it is not shown here, but I might be able to rent it.

Lisa Francisco said...

Awesome. Watch the full trilogy if you have not done so to get a better understanding of Water. Fire and Earth are the names.

On a side note, John Abraham is absolutely beautiful.

Lisa Francisco said...

thanks for stopping by today. :)

eshuneutics said...

A highly interesting review. I have not seen this advertised in the UK, but I am out of touch--must look!

Ajay said...

i guess water comes from the idea of purity
( a love as pure as the water of ganges, in times so taintes ! ) right ?
and mayb she shows how life tests the purity soul of this 19 yr old woman in those murky time.
wanna c the film , and i hope it comes in india.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Gonna put it on my list. Maybe see if I can get the first two and watch them in order. I love doing that.

pRicky said...

on babel...
language was a connecting factor still is but i guess they seem more like codes now and probabaly so many of them came around because of mans need for secrecy...
on water...
water was a gutsy movie to make...
kudos to the team but i would have more to say when i get to see it...

Klara said...

I gotta see this Movie!!!!!

Lisa Francisco said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be updating tomorrow night. I appreciate your advice. Have a great weekend!

:)

Lisa

_Jonathan_ said...

Great post. I have to watch this movie....
I don't have so much time to see all the movies you comment, but I try to write the names of the movies in my post-its.
Bye

naj said...

Hi there,

Thanks for visiting my blog and your words of support.

I have to come back here and reed your article about Water. And then I need to find myself some time to SEE earth, fire, water :)

Best
Naj

Naj said...

LOL

Id, I feel like an idiot! I didn't make the connection between your name and who you were.

Sorrryyy :))

I should never respond to posts from work, without proper contextualization :)

Mellowdrama said...

Nice post! I read the book but it was rather tepid since Bapsi had based her book ON the movie and the lack of research was all but apparent. Btw I think the name WATER is apt - because it is tech based in Benaras - where the Ganges flows. Ganges despite being horridly polluted is considered pristine, pure and holy.

The widows were and still are left by the ghats to fend for hemselves. This is one of the key reasons the Hinduvata brigade did not want the movie to be shot in India, because it portrays a Hindu society that is ridiculously narrow-minded and caste addled to this day. I am surprised no jurnos have followed this up with stories on the plight of widows in the current scenario.

Fcuk said...

Are u paki or indian?t

Id it is said...

fcuk,
I am neither; is that important?

berenice said...

hola I Me My

i am glad to read your review of this wonderful film that still hunts me today... even after many months of have seen it, also haunting and precious are always your reviews and words, you are a very talented and sensitive person. I am so happy and thankful that i've found on this World-Wide-Web, can't wait for more of your always enlightening words. Have a good week ahead, a path of smiles and good wishes ahead of "usted"