Director: Deepa Mehta(Bandit Queen)
Cast: Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen), Lisa Rey (Bollywood, Hollywood)
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Was never widow had so dear a loss!" Shakespeare, King Richard III
Bollywood and Hollywood with a dash of serious cinema: That's Water, Deepa Mehta's last of a trilogy that includes Earth (lesbian love) and Fire (forbidden love). In this installment, widows are an oppressed class, relegated to an existence without meaning because their usually older husbands had the temerity to die while some of the girls were too young to have even seen the old men. During these 1930's remained a tradition that put the widows in an isolated home, forbidden to love again, despite recent legislation that allowed such activity.
Water is Mehta's statement about the crushing power of tradition and the sacrifices necessary to stop corrupt caste and custom. Kalyani (Lisa Ray), uncommonly beautiful, is such a widow pimped out to meet the rent for all the other widows living in the same compound. The Bollywood aspect is her beauty and her buddy, a young and pesky/perky Chuyia (Ronica Sainana Sarala), who both buck the system to succeed with a welcome amount of reality. The original upbeat music and upbeat scenes with the two remind me of the glossy feel-good sequences endemic to feel-good Bollywood musicals and Harlequin novels.
The cute meeting between Kalyani and Brahmin Narayana (Jonathan Abraham) and subsequent love affair are strictly Hollywood with principals too beautiful even by reputed Asian standards of extreme beauty. Although I believe that to identify with a love affair on stage or screen, I need to see physically fit principals, these two are beyond any requirements I have for disbelief suspension,
Mehta saves the film from the maudlin by presenting a denouement that reflects the exhilaration of idealism over pragmatism and the reality of payments due for each humanistic advance. So I gave into the sentimental ending because Mehta made me see the cost of such an advance.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com