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Water is far too powerful and moving to be called a mere film; this is a brave cinematic triumph that illuminates a tragic issue that few in the West know the first thing about - namely, the historical plight of widows in Hindu society. It also has much to say about modern Hindu culture as well, though, as the mistreatment of widows is still a problem in India today - and quite a touchy one, as made clear by the reaction of Hindu fundamentalist groups in India during filming. As I watched the end credits of the film roll, I was a little puzzled as to why the movie was shot in Sri Lanka, but now I have learned that the original production was basically run out of Upper Pradesh, India, because it was attacked as anti-Hindu in nature. It took four years for the filming to be taken up again - this time outside of India, with the two lead roles played by one actress who only spoke Hindi as a second language (Lisa Ray) and another who spoke no Hindi whatsoever before filming began (Sarala). Obviously, the subject matter makes for a most touchy issue; Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, so we're talking about traditions ingrained into much of the population for thousands of years.

I first became fascinated with India a little over a year ago, and I found this film to be nothing short of shocking, exposing a part of Hindu culture I knew nothing about. I knew that widows had to give up their own lives in the funeral pyres of their dead husbands many centuries ago, but I had no idea that widows still gave up the majority of their lives here in the modern day. It is heartening to discover that Gandhi opposed this traditional practice. This great man was about much more than peaceful opposition to British colonialists and the elimination of the caste system - and widows were basically an anonymous cast unto themselves, separated and shunned by society. It's especially tragic to see a young and vibrant life essentially snuffed out by this practice - and it's doubly tragic that so many of these women did not question it, as they had been brought up to believe they deserved to be punished for not dying when their husbands died. It's even more especially tragic when such widows included little girls.

Chuyia (Sarala) is one such girl, widowed at seven years old. She accepts the ritualistic shaving of her head to indicate her widowhood, but she is far too young to understand why her parents abandoned her, leaving her in the care of a group of widows forced to live outside of normal society for the rest of their lives. Initially rebelling against her new position in life, she finds only one kind soul, a beautiful young lady named Kalyani (Lisa Ray). Kalyani lives somewhat apart from her fellow widows; she has a dog (which is forbidden) and she also still has long hair - but only because the dominant widow forces her into prostitution. Kalyani soon meets a young man named Narayan (John Abraham), a modern thinker and follower of Gandhi. They fall in love, and Narayan (to his mother's horror) asks her to marry him. That sets even more dramatic events in motion, leading up to a conclusion that will more than likely have you in tears.

As you may have guessed, this is a pretty depressing film, with a number of very uncomfortable, heart-breaking scenes. Your heart just goes out to so many of these widows, from the outrageously young, such as Chuyia, to the very old (such as Auntie, who has spent the better part of a century dreaming about the sweets she has been unable to taste since the time of her own childhood wedding). Amidst so much hopelessness, however, there is a modicum of hope embodied in one very religious woman (Seema Biswas) who begins to question the values she has always believed in - and in the end there is also Gandhi, who has returned to his native land and just been released from prison by the British (Water is set in 1938).

I really wish I could convey to you the raw power and emotion of this extraordinary film. The story is woven together in a masterly way, evoking almost infinite meaning from so many small incidents and events, and on a surprisingly large number of issues. The cinematography and sparsely effective musical score simply soar, and the performances of the entire cast could not be more impressive. I don't know if I've ever seen a film express so much meaning so effectively. Water is just a magnificent cinematic achievement.
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on 22 January 2008
Water- Special Edition (2 disc) is a beautiful movie to watch. It should be praised for its creativeness in terms of film making, but in addition the delicate issues it addresses.

The movie is set in the backdrop of the British Raj period. Religious rituals are performed within the confinements of the location. The story is about a young and innocent girl who is cruelly orphaned at such a young age to a widow village. She meet and develops a close and special bonding with this beautiful widow. This widow played by Lisa Ray who falls to the charm of Gandhi follower played by Bollywood heart throb (John Abraham). That is the general gist of the story.

The initial stages of the film led to major delays, as the original plans to filming of the movie in the Ganges backfired due to widespread religious protest. The alternative location used for filming included Sri-Lanka. The movie deals with a delicate social issues of women being denied freedom and forever confined to a place, which understandably prompted this widespread protest.

Overall, a beautiful movie to appreciate and admire for its creativeness. Waters is a harsh vision about the cruelty of religion inflicted on individuals. Great setting, brilliant acting and creativeness are special qualities to praise the movie highly for.
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After Earth-DEEPA MEHTA turns to water with a bolder theme and does full justice to the maltreatment of widows still prevalent in an institutionalised form in this realistic drama set in the Ganges valley and shot beautifully with poetic fluidness in Sri lanka ,after it was denied filming in Benares where it was set origonally.

The cast is superb headed by Seema biswas as the minder of a widow asylum in India , with Lisa ray and John abraham enacting an anigmatic but tragic love affair and the evil is captured with true subtlety in the form of paedophiles and pimps who exploit the widows in an asharam for lust and greed .

The 9 year old child widow Chiriya, walks away with the final applause with a great performance as she is handled with fragile care by the excellent script and direction .

The tragedy of cultural exploitation of the weaker sex was never brought to life in a more subtle and mature manner by an Indian film-maker before ,and the sound track helps the evolution of a shocking story where the twist in the finale will take your breath away.

Unmissable and truly worthy of its oscar nomination ,kudos to the entire team .

The movie is set in British India and the brief appearance of the Mahatama Gandhi at the end is very symbolic yet relevant to this social awakening from a brilliant woman director .

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on 14 July 2007
This is an eye-opening film. And a heart-breaking one. And one that may leave you changed afterwards.

It's pacing seems to take its momentum from the opening scene of the large, ponderous river (representing the Ganges). But this pacing allows the viewer to fully absorb the culture, the characterizations and the details of the plot.

And it's visually stunning, taking some of the sting out of the forlorn story. Writer/director Deepa Mehta ignores the vérité style of layering ugliness upon ugliness to enhance a tragedy. So, instead, we revel in the beauty of nature. Of Indian artistic style. Of Canadian-Hindi actress Lisa Ray. And the hunky man (John Abraham) who is infatuated with her. And, finally, the beauty found in a remote hope.

The story seems fresh despite being constructed of familiar parts. The acting is generally very good with a superb one by Seema Biswas as the widow approaching middle age who is wise and sympathetic, but not so wise that she's immune to the ache of her predicament. Sarala as the 8-year-old widow is a scene-stealer despite her obvious inexperience. And John Abraham and, especially, Lisa Ray bring earnestness to their romantic storyline.

This film continues to haunt me.
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on 15 December 2007
Water forms the concluding part of the trilogy set by Deepa Mehta that also incorporates Earth and Fire. As in the element nature of the titles; Water is a very different from from the previous two offings.
The filming had to be delayed by 4 years and instead of being filmed at the banks of the Ganges; shooting had to be conducted in Sri Lanka instead.
The main theme of the film deals with the ostracizing of Hindu windows from society. They are treated as walking corpses, and generally taboo. The main character in this film is a 8 year old child widow, Chuiyya; Her innocence takes over over from her pitiful state. Her friendship with a young widow; Lisa Ray as well as the presence of a young Gandhian John Abraham (in a very different role from his usual Bollywood heart throb image)forms the crux of the film.
A film that has earthly music from A R Rahman with a superb use of colours; Water is a classic ;on a par with Earth and Fire.
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on 10 April 2008
Ghandi said that it was good to swim in culture but not to drown in it. This film shows how people drown (suffer) unnecessarily because of tradition/religion/culture. Ghandi thought that widows should be allowed to re-marry. When a pretty widow decides to try and re-marry she is told that she will be reborn in the womb of a jackal and she will condemn her fellow widows to harm. The widows do have to bring in money to survive and besides begging the ?senior widow is not adverse to enlisting the services of a female pimp to find "work" for her fellow house mates. Rather a harrowing film in many ways, I found myself becoming outraged, frustrated sad but it is certainly a very important document. I had the single disc version which had no subtitles, one could watch the film in Hindi or English. Unfortunately, I found it rather hard to hear the dialogue on the english version..perhaps the 2 disc version is better.
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on 18 October 2006
At last something different from the endless twaddle of Bollywood: an Indian movie where there is no dancing, no singing and no nonsense. "Water" is a film in the tradition of Satyajit Ray, intelligent, sensitive, realistic and critical. Although it casts an unfavourable light on one aspect of Hinduism, its treatment of widows, it is still suffused with ancient Hindu motifs: the love between Krishna and Radha forms the backdrop of the adult protagonists' tragic love. But first and foremost, it is a film about a child widow whose childhood and life is destroyed because her husband-to-be - who is formally her husband, even if she is only 8 years old and the marriage has not been consummated - dies a premature death, an event which sends her into utterly absurd widowhood. The film encountered so much opposition in India from the Hindu right that it had to be produced on Sri Lanka. It is a film that offers insight and knowledge. It is worth your time.
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VINE VOICEon 31 May 2007
The movie is 114 minutes long and is about India in 1938. India then is under the British rule and the moods of Indians are very different - the ones who finds it useful for themselves, support the British and the ones to whom it's not comfortable - feel suppressed and simply occupied. This is the time when strongly traditional India meets up with the new and the reaction of the most is rather passive. However the personality of Mahatma Gandhi is getting more and more known, approved by the common masses and gain a new power. Gandhi wants to change the ancient laws and improve the life of the suppressed ones (untouchables, farmers and widows).

The director depicts the life of Indian widows. The plot is set in the ancient city of India - Varanasi, in the widow ashram. Arranged to get marry at the age of 7 or 8 and soon loosing their husbands, they have three choices: to burn themselves together with the body of their husbands, to marry their husbands' younger brother if husband's family agree or to live the life of celibacy and refusal, separated from the society which means being bold, wearing white, not owning anything, not laughing, not eating fried or spiced food etc.

Deepa Mehta's story is about [...] widow Chuyia (Sarala) who is brought back to her parental home after her husband's death and then delivered to the Banaras' widow ashram by her father. She is just a child and doesn't understand that she will have to spend here all her life. There she meets other widows and we can see how different their personalities are, how much they crave for the world, how much imprisoned they are in these white saris. Chuya befriends with one of the widows - Kaliyani (Lisa Ray). She is the only one young widow in the ashram and also the only one to own long hair. Behind this, there is a reason also. After Chuya comes to ashram, Kaliyani meets a young and kind youth from the Brahmin caste - Raj (John Abraham) (who is a passionate follower of Gandhi) and fells in love with him. However their love is not meant to embody into some more material form. One of the most lovable characters in the film is devoted and dutiful widow Shakuntala (Rishma Malik) who wonders why the voice of heart sounds differently that the one of the Holy Scriptures.

"Water" is a beautiful movie with wonderful scenes and photography and the soundtrack is also amazing. The story is set in the ancient Varanasi and the widow ashram seems to be located by the river Ganges. "Water" is full of symbolism and of image details of India in 1938. It has been nominated to Oscar and has earned many other awards, also "Water" was very negatively accepted by the Hindu extremists in India and some political parties also. It's a movie which leaves something heavy on ones chest but can be called as a must watch as an example of neglected human rights. I'd rate it 4 stars because although I admit it's a very good movie I didn't completely like the lens through which the subject was depicted. It was rather shocking.
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on 20 September 2007
Ms. Mehta has a message. In this film this message is brought to us in overwhelming imagery, splendid acting and a heart-rending musical score. The filming was an epic in itself and perhaps therefore, working against so much resistance, the best was brought out in all aspects of film making.
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on 5 August 2007
This is the third in Deepa Mehta's elemental series (Fire, Earth are also gripping) which focuses on the plight of woman at certain periods of 20th-century Indian history.

Her work is monumental and an historic achievement - I would class her as one of the top five directors in the world.

This is a film that rails against the institutional bigotry that you find in all religions and the corruption that it can cause to social relationships. One small moment half way through the film captures this perfectly: A widow, who is now an untouchable, is gathering water from a pond and looks towards some women who are preparing for a wedding. "Be careful," says the man standing next to her, very gently and caringly, "Don't let your shadow fall on the bride or she will be cursed." He means her no harm, he is being thoughtful.

Deepa Mehta makes her points, not by showing violence or by shouting or by noise, but by showing the beauty of nature, by simply exploring the everyday lives of ordinary people caught in heartbreaking circumstances. It doesn't sound like much, does it? But you will be amazed at how absolutely gripping this movie is - from the very first frame to the very very last. Full marks too for all the cast, particularly Lisa Ray, holding done a very demanding role, to the astonishing little girl Sarala - and perhaps most of all to the understated and yet commanding Seema Biswas
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