“A widow should be long-suffering until death, self-restrained and chaste” So begins Water, with a quote from 2000 year old sacred Hindu texts – ‘The Laws of Manu’…
Although officially submitted by Canada, ‘Water’ becomes only the fifth Indian movie to be nominated for an Academy Award. The first winner of that group (in the Best Documentary category) was ‘Born Into Brothels’ last year and I hope ‘Water’ will continue that tradition. It combines a controversial story, tremendous acting performances and beautifully shot scenes making it one of my two favorite Indian movies of the year (my favorite one will be reviewed in the next few weeks). ‘Water’ is one of those rare movies that captures you from the first scene and doesn’t let you go until the final one. Each line of dialogue is perfectly written and every actor delivers a stunning performance. The simplicity of the sets adds to the grace and power of the film’s message.
The shooting of ‘Water’ was interrupted by Hindu fanatics for 5 years as they objected to the subject matter of how widows are treated in Indian society. A crowd of 2000 rioters burned down the sets in Benares and issued death threats against all those involved in the making of the movie. The production eventually was moved to Sri Lanka where filming resumed under a fake movie title and the film was finally finished 5 years after it was begun. The three female leads all provide memorable performances but none more than Sarala, the eight year old child who plays Chuihya. Sarala had never acted before making this movie nor did she speak a word of Hindi – astonishing considering how naturally she disappears into her role.
My favorite song from the movie is the haunting Piya with music composed by A.R. Rahman (who has said this is the most artistically complete album he has ever created). So tune in on Sunday night to see if the most successful Indian movie to be released in the US (and still unreleased in India) can become the second one to take home the Oscar gold.