'Water' to finally make it to Indian theatres

NEW DELHI: After bagging an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language category and being theatrically released in 57 countries, including the United Kingdom and Denmark, and having already brought in $ 5.6 million at the North American box office where it played in 150 theatres, Deepa Mehta's Water will finally be seen in Indian theatres early next month.

The renowned director told a press conference in the Capital yesterday that the John Abraham-Lisa Ray-Seema Biswas starrer was being released on 9 March all over the country.

The film figured among the final five nominees for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film Category’ for the Oscars beating Indian entry Rang De Basanti. It went to the Oscars as a Canadian entry. The Oscars are being presented on 25 February and will air live on Star Movies.

The film is the third in the trilogy of films by Deepa Mehta after Fire and 1947 Earth, and deals with the plight of widows in the India of the 1930s. Fire tackled lesbianism while Earth dealt with the subject of India’s partition.

Set against Mahatma Gandhi's Civil Disobedience movement of 1938, Water is a deeply moving tale of three women and their uprising against gender injustice and servitude in the 'widow houses' of India. The film's release in India has been made possible by BR Films, a distribution firm owned by filmmaker Ravi Chopra.

Speaking at the press meet, Chopra said his decision to take up the release of the film in India was not impelled by the film winning an Oscar nomination. "The decision to release the film in India was made before the film bagged the Oscar nomination," Chopra said. He added: ''It is a very cute film, a beautiful love story. It is a film which has won accolades and box office success galore in the US and in this sense made India proud in the West. This is all the more reason why I felt people in India should see this film.''

The theatrical release for the film in India comes almost seven years after protests by fundamentalists forced the filmmaker to suspend its shooting in Varanasi and abandon the project. The protestors alleged that the film was "anti-Hindu" and the sets of the film were set on fire by radical Hindu protesters who also burned Mehta's effigy in the streets and threatened the director. Hundreds of army troops were deployed to protect the cast and crew but the production was finally forced to shut down.

The film was revived four years later with a different cast. John Abraham replaced Bollywood star Akshay Kumar while model-turned-actor Lisa Ray took the place of Nandita Das. The shooting of the film was undertaken in Sri lanka in 2005 though the locale is shown as Varanasi.

Asked about the controversy surrounding the film, Chopra said, ''In the film, Deepa Mehta is talking about something that happened in India in the 1930s. One can differ with the director's take on the hapennings, but nobody can deny that it happened. As an Indian I, after watching the film, did not feel that the film hurts Indian sensibilities in any way."

Initially, the film will be released with about 100 prints all over India, including nine in Delhi. ''The film will initially be released in theatres in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Later, depending on the response, we will take it to smaller centers,'' Chopra said.

Mehta said "winning a nomination at the Oscars is itself a matter of pride. from hereon it does not matter whether the film eventually wins an Oscar.'' The film has been shortlisted along with Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico), After The Wedding (Denmark), Days of Glory and the German Cold War drama The Lives of Others.

John Abraham said, "Deepa Mehta is an actor's director. She understands her actors' sensibilities and projects her characters very well. In fact, I am proud to say that finally I have a Deepa Mehta's film on my CV."

Released by Fox Searchlight in the US in April last year, Water went on to become one of the best reviewed films of the year, and the highest grossing Hindi-language drama

ever released in North America. It received the Freedom of Expression award from the National Board of Review, was named one of the top ten best pictures by the New York Film Critics online and received their humanitarian award.

Besides the Oscars nominations for Best Foreign Language film, Water has earlier recieved nine nominations and three awards at the 26th annual Genie awards (Canada's Oscars), including an award for Seema Biswas for 'Outstanding Actress in a leading Role', 'Achievement in Music-Original Score' award for Mychael Danna and 'Achievement in Cinematography' award for Giles Nuttgens.

The film also won for Deepa Mehta the Best Director and Lisa Ray the Best Actress award in the 2005 Vancouver Film Critics awards and recieved a nomination for Best Canadian Film.

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