Written and Directed
by Deepa Mehta
Running Time: 1:57
for mature thematic material involving
sexual situations and for brief drug use
The final act in her controversial elements trilogy, Deepa Mehta's Water was a deeply disturbing film that was beautifully shot and very moving.
During the early stages of the independence movement in India, a young child bride named Chuyia is left a widow. As was the practice back then, she was sent to a widow's hostel in Varanasi where she was to spend the rest of her life. Widows were not allowed to remarry, and were considered tainted. Chuyia, who firmly believes her mother will come to get her soon, is befriended by Kalyani. Kalyani herself is an outsider within the walls of the widow's hostel. Unlike every other woman there, Kalyani's hair is kept long, because she is being prostituted by Madhumati so that the women can have some money coming in. One day, Kalyani and Chuyia run into Narayan, a young lawyer who has chosen the path of following Gandhi. Kalyani and Narayan fall for each other, even though it is forbidden. Madhumati wants to do everything in her power to keep them apart, otherwise shame and lifetimes of hell will be brought upon the other widows. But Kalyani is soon released from her imprisonment by the kindhearted Shakuntala who allows her to go with Narayan. But on their way to his parents house, Kalyani realizes something about Narayan's father and orders him to turn the boat around. This leads to a disturbing turn of events that will affect the lives of everyone, especially little Chuyia.
Water, for the most part, was very engaging and informative. The acting was superb and there were few times when my eyes would leave the screen. I was very moved by the plight of the women at the hostel. They seemed to be broken into two groups. One who accepted their lot in life and one who didn't understand why life had to be that way. As usual, it was the hardliners that usually won out, and the women did what they were expected to do on a daily basis. But you could see that the women who didn't like the status quo were starting to make headway and that maybe the treatment of them would soon change. What I would have liked to have seen explained is how someone that is seven or eight years old, could be married without her knowledge. That part of the movie was never explained as the film simply starts with Chuyia being told that she was now a widow and she had to go live elsewhere.
There were times in the movie where the action got a little slow. Certain scenes, while visually stunning, were also excessive and slowed the pace down. Then again, I might be someone who likes a quicker paced movie, while the director and others might prefer a slow moving film. Kind of like how I like to go to restaurants, get my food, eat it and leave, while others like having time in between courses. The actress playing Chuyia, didn't speak Hindi or English and had to learn her lines phonetically, which was an impressive feat. She was very likeable and you could really feel her pain. Lisa Ray, who played Kalyani, was quiet most of the time, but had a very dignified way about her. I didn't really understand her relationship with Narayan beyond them both being attractive, but it seems in most movies these days, that's all you need for two people to fall for each other. Surprisingly, John Abraham kept his shirt on the entire time. His character could have used some more pumping up. And how did he not know what his father was doing? While he did a good job with what he was handed, I would have liked to have seen some more about him and his past and his future. The final segment of the film, from the time Kalyani has the boat turned around, was one of the most tragic things I've seen on film. What happens to Chuyia, while never actually shown on screen, left me haunted for days. And any movie that can leave that much of a lasting impression is definitely one worth seeing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Water. It was wonderfully shot and acted, with a strong story that only had a few elements left out. It was also rather disturbing towards the end, but it's a movie that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
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