Deepa Mehta’s elemental trilogy comes to an end with this film. Before seeing Water I was almost unaware of most of the facts present in this movie. I don’t like to spoil movies by telling the story, but if you have desire to know it here’s the plot as is in IMdb:
The year is 1938, India is ruled by the British, and it is around this time that Mohandas K. Gandhi has arrived from Africa to begin his tryst with the British, as well as battle the traditions that bind the Hindus. Not yet in her teens, Chuyia is married to a much older and sickly male, who shortly after the marriage, passes away. Chuyia is returned unceremoniously to her parents’ house, and from there she is taken to the holy city of Banaras and left in the care of a wide assortment of widows who live at “the widows’ house,” shunned by the rest of the community. Chuyia believes that her mother will come to take her home. Here she meets several elderly women, including the head of the house, Madhumati; a quiet, confident woman named Shakuntala; and a gorgeous young woman named Kalyani — all widows. Chuyia does not know that according to Holy Hindu Scriptures she has been destined to live here for the rest of her life, for when a woman’s husband dies’, she has three options: One, to marry her husband’s younger brother, if his family permits; two, to kill herself on his funeral pyre; three, to live a life of celibacy, discipline, and solitude amongst her own kind. A new law in India which permits a widow to re-marry is not popular, and it is these customs and openly welcoming the lower castes that will pit Gandhiji against his very own people, apart from struggling with the British to leave India. Kalyani meets and falls in love with young Narayan, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, who wants to marry her, despite his mother’s protests. But on the day he comes to take her to his home, as they are crossing the river to his family estate, Kalyani recognizes the house, the very same house she had been forced to visit as a “prostitute,” to be with Narayan’s father. The question remains, can Kalyani marry the man she loves? Will he want to marry her when he knows what has passed between her and his father? And is Chuyia really destined to live the rest of her life as a widow among shunned widows?
It’s a strong movie, vivid with colors and emotions. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in the 2007 Oscars, this is a candidate to best film I saw so far this year (the other candidate is El Labirinto del Fauno, from Guillermo del Toro). Anyway, glad to have this one on DVD.