Last nWater2pight, I watched WATER, recommended in a discussion either here or in the discussion of Bollywood triggered by Liz Bevarly’s music post on the now-defunct Squawk Radio.   Set in 1938, it is the story of a little girl who is widowed at the age of seven, and sent away to an ashram to live for the rest of her life, as is the custom.  Chuihya’s head is shaved, she’s dressed in white, and she is sent away from her family to the grim environs of the ashram, where she meets three women who all influence her fate.  One is the beautiful young Kalyani (Lisa Ray) who falls in love with Narayan (John Abraham), and their star-crossed tale is woven into the struggle for faith, the desire for happiness, and the excruciating tale of women condemned to a life of nothing after a husband dies. 

Which makes it sound as if it would be a grim movie indeed.  It is not.  Water is lyrical and earthy, and highly romantic.  It is also a visual feast, filmed with extraordinary attention to light and composition without ever being self-conscious or haughty.

It also raises my on-going and pleasurable debate with myself over wanting to visit India. So beautiful and so challenging and so poor and so rich, spiritual and severe, romantic and sexist and sensual and ignorant and wise.  It is a swelter of ideas and possibilities; frightens and perplexes and intrigues.  I’m afraid I will go and hate it.  Maybe just as afraid that I won’t.   


Beautiful film. Thanks to those who recommended it.  On one site, it said the move is banned in India.  Does anyone know if that is true?

8 thoughts on “Water

  1. There are two more directed by Deepa Mehta, Earth and Fire. I’ve seen Water, and the husband has seen that one and Fire, and felt Water was the better one.

  2. Tony

    I’ve seen all three. Works of genius. Earth is set during the days of the partition of India and Pakistan — complex, bloody, moving. Fire is about the love between two Indian women and their eventual sexual connection (for which there is literally no word in their language.)

    Yes, Water is not only banned in India, Mehta was refused permission to film it in India (she used Sri Lanka instead.)

    Anyone who hates India hasn’t allowed themselves to be there.

  3. Okay, I’ve added Earth And Fire to my list, and I’m deeply curious about this filmmaker now.

    And thank you, Tony, for that: anyone who hates India hasn’t allowed themselves to be there.

    The one thing that’s certain is that it isn’t like anywhere else.

  4. Tapsi

    Actually, the film isn’t banned in India and it was shown here to a great deal of critical acclaim. However, there WERE massive problems faced by Deepa Mehta during filming and she eventually didn’t manage to shoot in Varanasi, where it’s set, and had to shoot in Sri Lanka instead. For what it’s worth, being an Indian and having lived in Delhi all my life, I don’t think you could hate India…
    Maybe reading some Indian fiction in English would help, since you’ve seen quite a few Indian films – I love the depiction of India in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (it’s something like 1300 pages however) and another book I have a feeling you’d like is one called Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar, an absolutely stunning period work of sorts and tells a wonderful story of medieval India.

  5. I loooove Indian movies. Have you seen Kama Sutra – wonderful. What rich culture and beautiful scenery.

  6. Thanks for the background, Tapsi. I have tried to read A Suitable Boy, and have lost track of the number of people who have insisted I will love the book. It’s a bit slow in the beginning and I need a good, long stretch of time to read deeply. That kind of reading time has been hard to come by lately, especially with reviewing.

    However, my rule is to read only what I wish on planes, and I have a couple of long flights coming up, so I’ll give Seth one more try. I will also look for Cuckold, which does sound like just my cup of tea.

    Oh, and I do love thinking of you sitting at your computer in Delhi writing your comment, and me sitting here in Colorado reading them. The wonders of the Internet!

    Dara, yes, I loved Kama Sutra. Haunting film.

  7. Oh, and about the fear of hating India. Of course I will not. I suspect the opposite is true. It’s a place that I, personally, being who I am and loving the things I love, will love intensely. It’s just that fear one has sometimes of loving an idea more than the real thing. Sooner or later, you have to put aside the infatuation and let the object of desire reveal itself to you, with all its flaws and beauties.

    India is not just one thing, either, one single idea. So many people, such a long history, so many complicated layers.

  8. Tapsi

    That’s so true, it’s difficult to isolate any one idea of India and I’m often impatient with attempts to do so. There’s always the heartbreak of seeing flaws but then it’s also wonderful to see so much more than you might have expected right?
    Oh and the thrill for me is definitely hearing from one of my favourite romance authors ever. I’ve only managed to get hold of your earlier work, but I love every bit of it and keep going back to it again and again, in my own rather futile attempts at writing romance! Thank you for your wonderful books.

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