May 29, 2006
Deepa Mehta’s pretentious ‘Water’
I don’t know if Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’ has yet been released in India. In the US it has received much hype; and the film is playing in San Francisco and some theatres in the Bay Area, California, to critical acclaim. I couldn’t stand it for more than 20 minutes. And I am not an RSS activist. My contempt for such cinematic effort stems from a lack of sensitivity in filming. When its maker faced problem from Hindu activists during the shoot much was made in some quarters of India’s intolerance to freedom of expression.
It is not as if no film had been made on our socially-sanctioned cruelty to child widows. I recall a Kannada film (cannot remember the name) made over two decades ago that handled the plight of our women in such circumstances with sympathy and sensitivity. The film advocated widow remarriage at time when it was not socially fashionable to do so.
‘Water’ has high production value that facilitates a gullible audience to gloss over the film’s treatment of the theme. Deepa Metha’s ‘Water’ is pretentious. Director appears to relish dwelling on travails of a child widow, at a slow-moving pace with lingering shots of disagreeable rituals, such as shaving the head of a widowed child in exasperating detail. You don’t need to capture in close-up every movement of the barber’s razor over the scalp of a sobbing child.