Water Deepa Mehta

Nearly ten years after her 1996 film Fire received raves at the Toronto International Film Festival, Deepa Mehta, the Toronto-based Indian filmmaker, completes her "elemental trilogy" (Earth followed in1998) with the long awaited Water. The long-delayed project was stopped due to threats and demonstrations orchestrated by Hindu fundamentalist groups supported by the state government in Uttar Pradesh. Star Wars creator George Lucas even took out a full-page ad in Variety to support Mehta when Indian authorities tried to shut Water down. Over five years later, the film is finally complete. Set in 1938 Colonial India, Water begins with eight-year-old Chuyia (Sarala) becoming a widow after her husband dies. Chuyia is sent to a home where Hindu windows must live in penitence. She meets a wide array of fellow widows and her youthful presence marks a drastic change in atmosphere of the home. Chuyia makes a particular impression on Kalyani (the breathtaking Lisa Ray), a younger widow disillusioned by the politics within the home. Through Chuyia's mischief, Kalyani meets a Gandhian idealist named Narayan who quickly falls for her. Their romance brings Gandhian politics to the forefront of the film and provides a conflict representative of this time in India's history. As the story unfolds, Mehta's critical stance on this particular time in India's history is obvious. Yet her remarkable ability to use the camera as a method of creating art contrasts the horrific complications of these women's lives. The large ensemble of actresses portraying the widows are perfectly cast, particularly young Sarala. And though the story takes a backseat to the historical education Mehta provides, Water is an important and powerful film that complements the first two "elemental" films wonderfully. (Mongrel Media)