Water (2006) (PG-13)

Drama 114 April 28, 2006
By Bill Gallo
A work of gorgeous fury about the virtual imprisonment of millions of Hindu widows in the years before independence, this third and most powerful chapter of Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's "Elements" trilogy transforms the director's feminist rage into an eloquent testament to the hunger for freedom. Its heroines are a bewildered eight-year-old named Chuyia (played by Sarala, a child chosen from a village in Sri Lanka), who, due to the untimely demise of her spouse, is sent to live in an ashram for widows, and Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a beautiful twentysomething woman who is regarded as the jewel of the place--not least because she's the inmates' meal ticket. The women are forbidden to reinvent their lives or remarry, and they're also required to pay "rent" and cover expenses: Immune to irony and bereft of shame, the ashram's stern matriarch (played by veteran Indian actress Manorama) regularly ferries Kalyani across the sacred Ganges, where she is forced to prostitute herself to the chauvinist Brahmans on the far shore. Two rays of hope light this bleak scenario: The great Indian liberationist Mahatma Gandhi is on the rise; and the film's tiny protagonist is so innocently and so willfully detached from the past that she comes to embody the new spirit of her time. (Bill Gallo)
Deepa Mehta Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Sarala, Buddhi Wickrama, Iranganie Serasinghe, Ronica Sajnani, Manorama, Rishma Malik, Meera Biswas Deepa Mehta David Hamilton Fox Searchlight Pictures


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