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Directed by Deepa Mehta
Canada, 2005 (fiction, 117 minutes, Hindi)
Also known as "Agua", "River Moon"
Image: © Mongrel Media

Film Description:
"Water is set in a House of Widows in India in 1938. An eight-year-old widow, Chuyia, is the catalyst whose forced move into the house causes a complete upheaval in the lives of its inhabitants, changing forever the hapless existence of two widows in particular: Shakuntala, 30 years old, devout and intelligent, who goes through a crisis of faith that eventually places her at the crossroads of a radical choice; and Kalyani, 18 years old, innocent and beautiful, who finds the courage to embrace the love of the fiery idealist Narayan. Woven in the background is Gandhi's struggle for the liberation of India, not only from the British, but also from antiquated religious interpretations that impede India's social and moral progress."
-- Telefilm Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Deepa Mehta, Anurag Kashyap
Produced by: Mark Burton, David Hamilton, Doug Mankoff, Dilip Mehta, Marek Posival, Ajay Virmani, Claire Welland
Principal Cast: Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Sarala, Manorama, Vidula Javalgekar, Raghuvir Yadav, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Vinay Pathak, Gerson Da Cunha, Ronica Sajnani, Meera Biswas
Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens
Film Editing: Colin Monie
Music: Mychael Danna, A.R. Rahman
Production Company: Mongrel Media, David Hamilton Productions

Awards won by Water

Notes about Water


Quotes by the Director [in French]

"Au moment de l'arrêt du tournage [en 2000], je croyais que c'était la fin du monde. Quand on est devant des fondamentalistes religieux, peu importe qu'ils soient hindous, musulmans ou chrétiens, le dialogue est impossible. En tournant au Sri Lanka [cinq ans plus tard], je n'avais pas à me justifier, à jouer à la militante, à passer devant des comités politiques."
-- Deepa Mehta (source)

"J'ai eu l'idée de réaliser ce film [Water] dans les années 1990, à la suite d'un voyage à Bénarès. Je tournais là-bas un épisode de Chroniques du jeune Indiana Jones, la série télé de George Lucas. En me promenant sur les rives du Gange, parmi les pèlerins, une femme a attiré mon regard. Elle avait des cheveux blancs ras, la bouche édentée, le corps desséché par l'âge, une visible détresse sur le visage. C'était une veuve venue mourir dans la ville sainte, gage de son salut."
-- Deepa Mehta (source)

Quotes about Water

"[Deepa] Mehta's films, arguably, have enlarged the discursive boundaries of what can be represented in Indian cinema. Just as Fire engaged openly with lesbian sexuality, Water has permitted the oppressions and disempowerment that real women experience daily—real women, rather than the chaste wife or celibate widow ideals beloved of Hindu ideologues—to emerge onto the screen."
-- Shohini Chaudhuri (source)

"The film set was stormed daily by supposedly outraged Banarasis—almost all men with few exceptions that I could see—intent on preventing either Varanasi's holiness, or the sanctity of its widows to be disparaged. Many men I interviewed who had been involved in the demonstrations freely admitted that they were in the pay of various political and/or religious factions and cared nothing about the issues under dispute. Yet others articulated strongly felt outrage towards both Deepa Mehta—her effigy was burned in Varanasi—and at the prospect of such a film being made."
-- Sheleyah A. Courtney (source)

"The pared-down, deceptively simple feel of the narrative recalls the lyricism of one of [Deepa] Mehta's greatest influences, Bengali master Satyajit Ray. [...] However, the historical sweep and its emphasis on a culture going through seismic shifts is very much in line with Mehta's other work, most notably Earth."
-- Steve Gravestock (source)

"Deepa Mehta has used various contrasting images artistically to heighten the emotional impact of her film [Water]. They not only throw light on each other, they also act as counterpoints. Visual representations of serious social issues force the viewers to question their age-old beliefs and assumptions. An objective assessment of the film reveals that the director has skillfully used all the devices of plastic theatre to drive home her message. Suitable and symbolic songs add to the charm of the film, while appropriate light effects foreground its emotional centre. In addition to all this Deepa Mehta has successfully used all the resources of dramatic presentation as dramatic irony, verbal repartee, and colour contrasts to make her film a masterpiece."
-- Rama Rani Lall (source)

"Using Shakespeare's story of warring fathers and wayfaring children to highlight the horrific paternalism to which India's substantial widow population is still subject, Water explicitly aligns Romeo and Juliet not with the transcendent forces of romantic love but instead with the practice of sex trafficking and the project of colonial power. Indeed, as a film that documents the repressed histories of a female underclass that has been silenced for more than two thousand years by religious fundamentalism, State-sanctioned gender oppression, catastrophic neglect, and rampant sexual abuse, Water engages in the urgent practice of 'counter-memory.' By 'overwriting' dominant cinematic codes and 'writing back' against the twin forces of empire and systematic gender oppression, [Deepa] Mehta—as a feminist auteur—intervenes in the long history of Shakespearean adaptation by developing a counter-cinematic and, in many respects, a counter-Shakespearean, filmmaking ethos."
-- Courtney Lehmann (source)

"[Deepa] Mehta's trilogy [Fire, Earth, and Water] binds the elemental with the feminine and probes the way women are preyed upon and shackled by social institutions, pulverized and bartered by patriarchy. The trilogy represents in its totality a powerful and significant cultural challenge to the dominating masculine values and practices of oppression, subjugation and exploitation of women. Since Mehta happens to be a woman director, her courage in the face of intimidation by the largely patriarchal forces must be acknowledged as the immensely relevant preface to her film Water."
-- Tutun Mukherjee (source)

"I opened the email [from Deepa Mehta]. Because of all the controversies and death threats, she could not call the script Water. She had to disguise it with a different title: 'River Moon.' But it didn't matter what it was called: it was, and continues to be, one of the best scripts I've ever read. [...] In the character of Kalyani, I saw myself: the quiet rebel, trapped in a role dictated by her appearance yet longing for an unnamed, impossible liberation."
-- Lisa Ray (source)

"What made the shoot so unusual was the complete subjugation of our egos. Water wasn't about my role, and it wasn't about my character. We were like a theatre troupe, all in service of the film and in service of Deepa [Mehta]'s vision. It's the atmosphere you hope for every time you arrive on a set, but it comes along once in a lifetime."
-- Lisa Ray (source)

"As art films, both Fire and Water spatialise time and present a very sophisticated handling of narrative organisation, with an orchestration of words, sounds and images which forces on the viewer the tension between inner reality and the social mask. They represent subversive elements capable of profoundly destabilising the existing patriarchal system of power/gender relations."
-- Jayita Sengupta (source)

Quotes about Water [in French]

"D'une grande splendeur visuelle, la réalisatrice utilise à bon escient la symbolique de l'eau et imprègne le tout de certains codes empruntés aux films de Bollywood (chansons, historiette d'amour) pour tempérer la teneur de son sujet. Il en résulte un mélodrame social teinté de préoccupations féministes et porté par l'interprétation émouvante de ses comédiennes."
-- Pascal Grenier (source)

"Water, moins contestataire et moins bouillonnant que les deux autres films formant sa trilogie des éléments, semble se dérouler hors du temps. Et c'est sans doute la (triste) impression que la cinéaste désirait donner ici, nous révélant que cette pratique persiste toujours"
-- André Lavoie (source)

"Si la réalisatrice [Deepa Mehta] plante son décor dans la société coloniale de 1938, c'est qu'à cette époque, les mariages d'enfants étaient encore très répandus — bien qu'interdits depuis les années 20. Si, d'autre part, elle choisit de raconter le destin malheureux des veuves hindoues en peignant celui d'une petite fille, c'est afin de montrer 'à travers un regard innocent' comment l'apôtre de la non-violence Gandhi, en 1938 déjà, prêchait pour libérer les femmes de coutumes inhumaines, contraires aux droits les plus élémentaires, et comment la montée en puissance des fondamentalistes hindous demeure un sujet préoccupant."
-- Ella Marder (source)

Publications by the Director about Water

Bibliography for Water


Book Chapters

Brief Sections of Books

Journal Articles

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

Web Sites about Water

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