My mother-in-law and I went to see a movie this weekend, Water, that was the saddest movie I have ever seen. I came home wanting to see something cheerful and uplifting, like maybe, Romeo and Juliet. Madame Butterfly. You know, comedy.
Water takes place in India in 1938, and is about the 2,000 year old custom of how widows are discarded after their husbands die. The main character is an 8 year old girl, Chuyia, who doesn't even remember getting married. She is brought to an ashram and left there by her father. She is scared and confused, and convinced that her mother will be coming to get her soon. We all know she has been left there to rot, along with the other widows.
The other inhabitants of the ashram vary from about 20-years old or so to maybe 70s or 80s. Most were married at very young ages as well, though their husbands didn't all die when they were children. There is a love story in the film, for the 20ish year old widow, Kalyani (played by Lisa Ray) whom the 'mother superior' type, for want of a better term, whores out to 'clients' for money to pay the rent on the compound in which they all live. Kalyani never even met her husband, and he died when she was 9, and now she lives here and has a life of begging and prostitution to look forward to.
She falls in love with Narayan, (played by John Abraham), a young man that Chuyia befriends, a man who is forward thinking, a follower of Gandhi. He wants to marry Kalyani, and take her away from her life in the ashram.
An interesting thing about the film is the politics involved in the making of it. Because this practice of throwing women away like garbage is still very much a part of the village culture, the fundamentalists in India caused a lot of trouble when this film was being made, and finally, they had to move filming to Sri Lanka.
Lisa Ray and John Abraham are both gorgeous, and they are both big name stars, but the little girl is an unknown. Her dignity, innocence, and poise are devastating.
I can't say I LIKED the film...it's too sad. It broke my heart. But I wouldn't be surprised to see it up for some big awards, because it was very well made, beautifully filmed, directed, and acted. And it got me to thinking of how women are treated in so much of the world. The U.S. has come pretty far, but we also have our fundamentalist cults that marry off children to elder men, and with equally devastating results.