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USA: Fox Searchlight
UK: Metrodome Distribution
Cast: Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Sarala, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Waheeda Rehman, Raghubir Yadav, Vinay Pathak, Rishma Malik, Meera Biswas, Gerson Da Cunha, Vidula Javalgekar, Manorama, Deepa Mehta Saltzman, Ronica Sajnani
Director: Deepa Mehta
Countries: India / Canada
Language: Hindi (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 114 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual situations, and for brief drug use
UK Certificate: 12A contains moderate language and sex references
USA Release Date: 12 May 2006 (Limited Release - wider)
USA Release Date: 28 April 2006 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 1 June 2007 (Limited Release)
UK DVD Release Date: 22 October 2007
WATER is set in 1938, but the themes of the film are still relevant in Indian society today. Deepa Mehta found this out when production originally began on WATER in 2000. Deepa faced death threats from Hindu fundamentalists, and then filming halting all together when the set in the religious city of Varanasi was burned to the ground. The film is a stunning combination of beautiful cinematography, a gripping story and a powerful message.
The treatment of widows in traditional Indian culture was always going to be a controversial subject. The film shows how widows were forced to live in special 'widows homes' together, were forced into begging or prostitution in order to make ends meet and re-marriage was considered completely unacceptable by mainstream society. While times have changed, there are still are some instances of similar mistreatment of widows, and re-marriage is frowned upon in many Indian Hindu circles.
However, Deepa was determined to continue with the film. And so the set relocated to Sri Lanka and the film was completed in 2005. While even completing the film would be considered a success by most, the WATER production team have gone one further and secured distribution in India. However, controversy remains there are no current plans for the film to be shown in the holy city of Varanasi where it was originally filmed.
Eight year old Chuyia is not only married, she is now a widow. In 1930s India, widows are consigned to live their entire lives in isolated charity homes, eschewed by the general public as polluted, and forbidden to marry again. Chuyia is sent to live out the rest of her life in one of these institutions. There she meets Kalyani, a beautiful young widow who breaks the rules by falling in love with an educated young man who, in reciprocating her affections, is prepared to overturn the dictates of tradition.
Unfortunately, the women are penniless and the queen bee of the widows home has been covertly pimping out her most attractive resident, Kalyani, to wealthy local men. When Kalyani leaves, she must replace her source of income.
But Ghandi's politics are sweeping the nation. People are questioning religious interpretations that undermine social progress and the rights of women. Even little Chuyia will be caught up in the wind of change.
While less common, institutions and restrictions for widows still widely exist in India today.
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