Series ends with ‘Water’

Stephanie Melchiore

By Stephanie Melchiore

Staff Reporter

The 2005 production of “Water,” directed by Deepa Mehta, closes out her elemental trilogy following “Fire” (1996) and “Earth” (1998).

“Water” is set in 1938 colonial India when Gandhi’s progressivism began challenging British tradition as a whole, but the film specifically focuses on the religious oppression of Hindu women.

When their husbands die, Hindu wives are customarily separated from their families and sent to live in a widow colony because they are deemed “worthless” without their spouses.

They are cut off from the rest of the world, their heads are shaved and they live a destitute existence that sometimes leads to prostitution.

When her husband dies, eight-year-old Chuyia, a child bride, is sent to a widow house with 14 other women who believe, in accordance with Hindu beliefs, they are there to repent for sins that led to the deaths of their husbands.

She is unconventional and affects the other women in the house, including Kalyani, who is used as a prostitute to finance the house.

Mehta challenges the Hindu belief that women are useless once widowed and should not remarry by focusing on the forbidden love interest between Kalyani and Narayan, a Gandhian idealist.

Originally meant to be filmed in Varanasi, a holy city in India that still has widow houses, the production was delayed for five years by the riots and threats of Hindu fundamentalist groups who saw the film as a disturbing misrepresentation of Hindu beliefs.

The film was eventually shot in Sri Lanka, and the production was kept quiet so as to avoid further protests.

The war between traditionalism and liberalism is not only an overarching theme within the film.

It parallels and resonates with the war that Mehta fought to pursue the completion of this controversial film.

Although the film is set in India’s colonial past, it speaks to the present-day treatment of Hindu women. Mehta hopes that this story will make people aware of what is going on in other parts of the world and that people will have greater compassion for their fellow human beings.

This period film, the final offering in the Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for all others.

Guest speaker Dr. John O’Leary, assistant professor in the communication department, will be present at the Monday evening viewing period, to introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information, please contact the communication department at X9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Webpage,