Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The 4th Choice

In a 1938 pre-independence India, change has already set itself in high gear. The British have released Gandhi from jail and the Indian people are beginning to assert themselves beyond colonial rule.

Change, but overshadowed by higher traditional fences. Women of the era, according to holy text, have three choices when their husbands die: 1) burn with them at their cremation 2) marry the husband's younger brother, if available or 3) live in a house of widows. The third choice amounts to being a nun, living in poverty and celebacy for the rest of their days.

Water, a film by Deepa Mehta

Water chronicles an eight year old widow (yes, 8) and her time spent in a house of widows. The house is largely a self-contained entity since during the era, to be a widow was to be shamed and shunned by the rest of society. The interaction between the confused but rebellious 8 year old and the members of her new family was extraordinary, particularly when you consider that this actually happened. And in some cases still happens.

Although the house of widows was sealed to the outside, they still needed cash flow. To that end they allowed one woman, the resident prostitute-elect, to leave the complex nightly to bring home the cash by helping out some needy, mostly married men. She was a beautiful girl, the pro. So beautiful, in fact, that a liberal Gandhi follower (John Abraham) turned his nose up at tradition and fell madly in love with her. This he does much to the dismay of his parents, particularly his father, who makes use of her services regularly.

Naturally, drama ensues.

John Abraham

The acting is good with flecks of brilliance, particularly from the little girl playing the 8 year old widow (Sarala), the house pro (Lisa Ray) and the quiet but firm house guardian with a conscience (Seema Biswas). John Abraham, apparently India's male version of a supermodel, does a decent job but really, I wouldn't mind just looking at him for hours, even if he didn't talk or move.

While the acting wont move you to tears, the story, filming and the production will carry you away. Some of the scenes are so urgently and beautifully shot they will leave a permanent impression.

The soundtrack to Water is awesome; from the raw and primal drum beats to the soft but painful low chants.

This film is sad, sometimes enraging but ultimately beautiful.


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