Water

June 18, 2007 at 11:04 am (FILM REVIEW)

Written and directed by Deepa Mehta, Water is a film that will leave you thirsty for a script. It, at best, is a shoddy waste of time if a worthy addition to the con-artist cinema of the Orient. The story centres the chubby-cheeked eight-year-old Chuyia, whose father wakes her up:

“Do you remember getting married?” he says.

“No,” she replies.

“Your husband died. You’re a widow now.”

“For how long?” she asks.

Remarkably, the child claims not to remember having been married, even though her husband will have attacked her on their wedding night. Her head shaved, Chuyia is dumped into the hands of a refuge for widows.

(Oddly, one elderly widow there seems only to remember her wedding night, and the sweets she received then.)

The refuge is controlled by a matriarch-cum-brothel madam, who forces a fair-skinned, beautiful, European-looking woman called Kalya into sex work. Kalya befriends Chuyia, introducing her to her puppy – which she is allowed to keep along with her long hair.

When Chuyia goes running after her dog, she bumps into Narayan a liberal young Brahmin, who is more 1990s Islington yuppy than 1930s Indian nationalist. The upper caste/outcast love story that emerges is so clinical, shallow and unmoving that divulging what happens next will detract nothing from the film.

Narayan finds out that his father is one of his wife-to-be’s clients (a great twist had any of the characters depth – “You disgust me” he tells papa). Still, he decides he still wants her.

Only too late, Kalyani kills herself. (All this against the lusciously shot backdrop of a mystical India filled with wailing, sitars, and, for a welcome dose of realism, men scrubbing their armpits in rivers.) The evil matriarch sends little Chuyia to be one of Kalyani’s clients who is an Anglophile as well as a paedophile.

Chuyia is helped off a boat, back from her ordeal, by the film’s third female heroin Shakuntula. Audience sympathy is, by this point, fast running out. So what do you do to retain it? Wheel out Gandhi of course. Yes, folks, the last scene of this film shows the Mahatma making a – surprise, surprise – weakly scripted speech to a wooden audience in a train station.

He boards the train, which Shakuntula, who takes it upon herself to deliver the deflated Chuyia the great man, chases. Conveniently she spots Narayan to whom she manages to hand the child with the instruction, get her to Gandhi! Poor old Gandhi not only liberated India, but also the director of this charlatan of a film from having to think of a proper ending.

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7 Comments

  1. ducdenemours said,

    Peyvand,

    Penny and I had those merguez over the weekend. They were awesome.

    Thanks

  2. ducdenemours said,

    I’ll read the post in a minute

  3. peyvand said,

    Cheers.

  4. AJ said,

    Sorry, but I disagree with your review. I LOVED that movie. To me, sheltered here in Canada, it showed a portrait of India that I never knew about, and of course, being female, I sighed over the love story, and was up in arms at what those widows had to face to survive, and at how they were married as little children and then just thrown into these houses when their husbands died. Were there houses for widowers – no they could remarry. 😛 The ending where the middle-aged woman finally does something instead of just accepting things as they are, and sends the little girl into a freedom she’ll never have, that to me was a great ending. Maybe it wasn’t a great film, I’m definitely no expert, but all I know is that this movie touched me, and I remember it vividly, and think about it at times.

  5. peyvand said,

    AJ, thanks for your comment. I am no expert either. But I really felt robbed of my time (and ticket price) when I saw that film. Monsoon Wedding dealt with many of the themes this film touches on — child abuse, class, gender — in a far more touching and humane way. On another note, apologies to Soul Bean regulars receiving this blog in italics. This is owing to a technical quirk I’ve yet to look into.

  6. AJ said,

    Thanks for responding, and recommending Monsoon Wedding. I haven’t seen it, but now you have sparked an interest and I want to. I will have to look for it. I saw Water quite a while ago (rented it on DVD). By the way, I love your blog. I’m not Persian (I’m ‘mixed European descent Canadian’ -> political correctness can be a mouthful, lol) but I have many Persian friends and am learning Farsi as well as about the culture. Many times your blog has brought either a laugh to my lips, or an issue to my awareness. Thanks!

  7. redneckarts said,

    Sheltered here in Canada I wondered what the hell we white folks were doing sitting in an alternative theater watching this movie “water” and then talking about it over foods of other lands on a Sunday afternoon and feeling enlightened about the sorrows of other lands in the bargain and it went on and on and on and even a recent widow like I was couldn’t feel much connection and I never did that again.

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