Water Hindi Movie Review
Ok, so Water didn't win the Oscar. Neither did Lagaan, Salaam Bombay or Mother India. Doesn't matter. Deepa Mehta's third installment in the trilogy on the elemental series after Fire and Earth (if you could ignore the cliched Bollywood Hollywood) is a superlative cinematic experience. Its sheer sanctity and authenticity bowls you over.
Water is an extraordinary film for several reasons. Firstly being its stark theme and its virgin treatment. Water is the same film that Deepa Mehta started in the year 2000 with Akshay Kumar and Shabana Azmi (for which Shabana even shaved her head). The film was later stalled due to political interference by the moral police. The film was restarted with John Abraham and Seema Biswas in 2004 and subsequently shot in Sri Lanka with a fake title of 'Full Moon' to avoid any more attention and interference. The film is set in India in the pre-independence era of 1940s but primarily talks about the plight of widows in the country then.
The film shocks in its first frame itself where it reads the laws for widows from the sacred scriptures that says 'A widow should either burn in the pyre of her husband, or marry her husband's younger brother or lead a life of self-restraint and be long suffering until death'. Cut in to a scene when an endearing 7-year old girl is told that she has turned a widow. If child-marriage was not an issue enough, she will now be forced to shave off her head and lead her entire life with self-restraint in an ashram for no fault of hers.
This ashram is headed by Madhumati (Manorama) where widows of all ages are abandoned by their families. 7-year-old Chuyia (Sarla) is one such unfortunate innocent child. Over here she forms a bond with Shakuntala (Seema Biswas). Kalyani (Lisa Ray) is the only widow from the ashram who is allowed to keep her hair as her beauty and body is set on sale to obtain funds to run the ashram. Narayan (John Abraham) a follower of Gandhian principles who lives in the same village falls in love with Kalyani. Going against her mother's (Waheeda Rehman) wish he decides to marry Kalyani. But in a strange turn of incident life changes for him.
One element that adds authenticity to Water is its choice of Hindi language. The director despite being from Canada doesn't get carried away by other filmmakers in the league who make movies for an international audience and use English language in a complete Hindi setting that looks both forced and fake. Add to it Anurag Kashyup's chaste Hindi dialogues that enriches the feel of the film. The art direction of the film with the setting of the 40s is simply impeccable. One hasn't seen a more credible ambience than this created in a film since Mira Nair's Kama Sutra. A.R.Rahman's music does justice to the film. No musician can strike a chord with the period setting of the film like Rahman.
Deepa Mehta's well-etched screenplay and strongly defined characters makes you live every scene, every moment in the film. Just for example you feel remorse for a 90-year-old widow (played by Vidula Javalgekar) who craves for sweets throughout the film and the last time she remembers she had had them was during her marriage at the age of 7.
A highpoint of the film is its climax. While many filmmakers start their narratives strongly and grab your attention, they tend to lose focus towards the climax and are unable to handle it skillfully. Deepa Mehta maintains a consistency in her film and gives a good culmination to the plot with a connection to Mahatma Gandhi.
You are simply amazed by the vision of Deepa Mehta for casting a mainstream commercial actor like John Abraham who is a youth icon in jeans and glares, in a dhoti-clad role of a Gandhi follower in 1938. And whatever the critics have to say about him, John does justice to his character. Your heart goes out for the charming Lisa Ray as an unfortunate widow trapped by her ill fate. With<