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WSWS : News & Analysis : Asia : India
Deepa Mehta speaks out against
campaign to stop her film
"What we face is not about religion, it's political"
By Richard Phillips
15 February 2000
Deepa Mehta, the Indian born, internationally acclaimed film
director has been subjected to
a series of vicious attacks by Hindu fundamentalists who, working hand in hand with the
Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), have shut down production in Uttar Pradesh of Water, her
latest film. The BJP is the main party in India's National Democratic Alliance government
and holds power in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Rioting gangs in Varanasi led by local BJP politicians and
rightwing Hindu extremists
attacked the film set and destroyed it in late January, claiming that the proposed film
denigrates Hinduism and Indian widows. After the BJP state government suspended the
film's production twice in one week, declaring that it threatened civil peace, Mehta decided
to withdraw from that state and seek another location in India.
Mehta has rejected this attack on democratic rights and stood
firm in the face of an
unrelenting campaign of intimidation and threats by fundamentalist thugs. Water, the third
in an Indian trilogy, is set in the 1930s and deals with the plight of a group of widows in
Fire (1996) and Earth (1998), the two other films in the trilogy,
have also brought Mehta
into conflict with Hindu communalists. When Fire, which deals with a lesbian relationship
between two married women, was released Hindu extremists organised violent
demonstrations, forcing the closure of several Bombay and New Delhi cinemas. They also
denounced Earth, which is set during the 1947 British partition of India, and have
demanded the government ban the film.
Although production of Water has been suspended in Uttar Pradesh,
Mehta has said that
she is determined to shoot the film in India and will not be intimidated. She spoke by phone
last week from India with Richard Phillips.
Richard Phillips: Before I ask you to detail what has happened
over the last few weeks let me
say that we support your determination to produce Water and regard its closure in Uttar
Pradesh by the Hindu fundamentalists as a serious attack on democratic rights that should be
opposed by filmmakers, artists and all working people.
Deepa Mehta: Thank you. We've received support from several
Indian filmmakers and many
others that I deeply respect over the last week. We've also heard that there is going to be an
advertisement in Variety supporting us. I've been really touched by all this support.
RP: Can you begin by explaining the legal requirements to produce a film in India?
DM: To produce a foreign-funded film in India you have to first
apply to the Minister of
Information and Broadcasting. You must submit your script, which they scrutinise, and then
they decide whether you can film or not. They can give you permission with or without cuts.
This, according to the government, is to make sure that the film in no way compromises India.
After that you apply to the Home Ministry to get appropriate
visas for any overseas crew, and
then, when you've given them all this information and the approvals are made, the government
attaches a liaison officer. He is a representative of the Ministry and his job is to make sure
that you are shooting the script submitted. He has a copy of the script to ensure that there is
nothing surreptitious. After the film has been edited and completed for release in India it has
to go through the censor board, where they can also make cuts.
RP: So you fulfilled these obligations
and were preparing to shoot when the Hindu
fundamentalists began their campaign. Can you explain what happened?
DM: Yes, we went through all the legal procedures required,
submitted our script, which was
approved without a single cut, and then we went to Varanasi where we had permission to
You don't have to consult the state government but we also
decided to do that. They told us it
was OK and that it was wonderful that we were coming to make the film. The Uttar Pradesh
(UP) state government is currently trying to encourage film investment and they wanted
people from all over the world to come to the area. They told us they would assist in every
Everything appeared to be just great until one of the state
government people, someone who
doesn't have an official title but is like a lackey to the UP Minister for Tourism, came to
Varanasi and told us that we could shoot the film if we used his friends to cast the film. I told
him that the film was already cast. He said OK, but could we use his friend's wife to star in
the film and also use this friend to find all the extras.
The final straw was when he demanded I give him distribution
rights to the film. So I
basically told him to buzz off. We'd been working for about four weeks doing pre-production
at that stage.
Two days after I'd told him to take a hike, murmurs began in
the city that I was making a film
that was anti-Hindu, and which denigrated the widows, the ancient Indian culture and the
people of Varanasi. And within days it catapulted into something massive. We were amazed
how organised and well-oiled the machinery was.
When the state government decided to suspend production the
first time, after the
demonstration, I came back to Delhi to meet the minister who had given me permission
originally. To his credit he stood by me and said that the centre had given permission and we
should definitely do the film.
The UP state government claimed it was a law-and-order issue
and that we could not do the
film. This was totally ridiculous. Yes, the first day the fundamentalists were extremely
organised and they destroyed our sets. There was complete vandalism, which threw the
country into a bit of a shock, and we had some concerns.
The second time the state government stopped production they
claimed that the people of
Varanasi were really upset, that thousands of people were protesting, someone had tried to
commit suicide, and the law and order situation had got out of hand so the film couldn't go
on. This was completely fabricated. We'd recommenced shooting and could not hear any
protestors. They claimed there were 10,000 protesting so we went outside and all we could
see were 12 people protesting.
As for the guy who tried to commit suicide, we found out that
this guy-and this is a fact
because the police have a case against him-is a professional suicider. No pun intended, but
he does it for a living. People pay him and he makes a bid for his life, goes to hospital for one
night and the next morning is back home.
RP: Who are the political forces behind this campaign and what
role do you think the central
government has played in this?
DM: I am not clear on all the political issues and people involved
but the centre has been
supportive so far. And I don't believe that everybody in India is a walking talking censor
board. It's a case of the state versus the centre. But if the centre says the film can go ahead,
why won't the state allow it, after all these people all belong to the same party? I suppose it
has something to do with the fact that the elections are just around the corner and obviously
all sorts of pressure is being applied and of course the fundamentalists are behind all of this.
The VHP [World Hindu Forum], in particular, has been rabid. VHP leader Ashok Singhal
has been saying the film will only proceed over his dead body and similar sorts of things. We
were told by the UP Chief Minister that they didn't want someone of this stature killing
himself, that it would produce rioting and therefore the film should be stopped.
RP: The VHP and others have said that they will prevent the
film being made anywhere in
India. Do you anticipate further attacks?
DM: We are currently looking at offers from some other states
and so we hope that there
will be no more trouble, but I am determined to make this film.
RP: There have been quite a number of attacks on filmmakers
and artists by the Hindu
fundamentalists over the last few years. When did this begin to develop?
DM: It has worsened in the last eight or nine years, with the
rise of fundamentalism. I don't
know all the details. I suppose the requirement that you must submit your script to the
government has existed for many years and people become used to it. But what we've had to
deal with now is something else-it's pre-censorship demanded by thugs. This is something
not heard of before in the history of cinema. All I can compare it to is being like an author
who is confronted with reviews of a book before it is published.
RP: The fundamentalists claim that Water attacks Hinduism and
that you, as a filmmaker,
make lots of money by exploiting the problems of India. What are your comments?
DM: These arguments are completely ridiculous. How can they
say this, they haven't even
read the script? This is the irony of it. They also say that Earth was an anti-Hindu film. This
is ludicrous. Earth deals with problems created by the British partition of India. You've seen
it, you know what it's about. And those that claim that I am making lots of money should take
a look at my bank account to see that this is nonsense.
The situation in India at the moment is that if you produce
films with song and dance routines
or unserious films, you are fine. It doesn't matter how violent and vulgar they are. But if you
want to make something even slightly introspective it is a no-no and you are accused of
exploiting Indian culture. I keep on saying: is Indian culture so weak that one film can
Those that declare that the film I am going to make will tarnish
the image of India should also
explain what has happened to me. If that doesn't tarnish India's image, I don't know what else
RP: Did you ever imagine this film would encounter such problems?
DM: No, not at all. We've done everything by the law. I submitted
the script, it was passed
and I did everything to keep a low profile. I didn't even want to have press conferences so we
could shoot our film quietly and finish it. No director wants this sort of hype about a film
before it is made. The expectations are enormous. You don't want to work with that kind of
baggage and all the associated pressures on the actors and crew. I've always said, allow us to
make the film and then judge whether it is good or bad or be indifferent to it. Let it be made
and then judge me as a filmmaker.
RP: What is now the schedule for the film? Have you found new locations?
DM: The crew is winding up for a few weeks but we hope to find
somewhere else in India to
shoot as soon as we can. It will probably take about a month or so to regroup and start again.
Luckily my producer is really behind me. He has been amazing and very supportive through
all this. Although the whole experience has been really awful I am damned if I am not going
to make this film. I'm really determined about this now.
RP: Finally, what do you think these events say to you about
the political situation facing
filmmakers in India?
DM: Everyone has some theoretical understanding of what happened
during the Inquisition.
You can read about it in the history books, but to live through it as we have done over the last
weeks is something else. What does it mean politically? It's like neo-Nazism, very dangerous
and raises a lot of questions about democratic rights. And I suppose it also brings home to
me that we tend to underestimate the impact of films. The fact that all sorts of forces are being
organised to stop me shows that film is a very powerful medium.
I've been accused of undermining Hinduism. This is totally
ridiculous. I am a Hindu, but the
Hinduism that I know has always been one of tolerance. There is such a dichotomy between
the Hinduism I know and the actions of those trying to stop the film. Of course what we face
is not about religion, it's political.
While Deepa Mehta's film crew twiddle their thumbs in
Varanasi, saffron Groups harden their resolve to stall
By Ajay Uprety/Varanasi and Debashish Mukerji/Delhi
Producer David Hamilton wore a troubled look. Seated in the
lobby of a posh
hotel in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, he sounded acerbic and rueful as he spoke about the
virulent campaign unleashed by fundamentalist groups against his film Water directed
by Deepa Mehta.
"If they (the government) didn't want us to shoot in India,
they should not have
granted us permission," said the lanky Canadian. Cooling his heels in the Gangetic
city for the past six weeks, he said he had never faced similar problems while shooting
Mehta's two equally controversial films Fire and Earth.
Nandita Das ( with tonsured Shabana Azmi) said the disruption
of the shooting
was politically motivated with a "handful of people misleading" the masses. "It
is indeed sad that we are scared of them," she said.
"The message sent out is that even after signing a contract
with the Indian government,
one cannot be sure if one will be allowed to shoot films in India," he said. The
unpleasant experience will in all probability dissuade him from taking up another
venture in India. "Which foreign collaboration will come here to make a movie?" he
asked. According to the producer, the root of the trouble lay in a visit some men had
paid him a month back. Unsure about their identity, Hamilton claimed they had been
interested in obtaining distribution rights to the film and had made it clear that they
would obstruct shooting if denied. "This may explain why the protesters chose to
remain quiet till the mahurat to raise their objections," he said.
Part of the set
Actress Nandita Das, her hair closely cropped for her widow's
role in the film,
said the disruption of the shooting was politically motivated with a "handful of
people misleading" the masses. "It is indeed sad that we are scared of them," she
Water is the third in Mehta's trilogy of movies named after the elements. From
the start it attracted controversy, with Mehta receiving death threats and obscene
telephone calls. Although she had obtained the Centre's clearance, the Uttar
Pradesh government denied her permission to film in the city as she began
shooting on January 29.
The next day a 500-strong mob under the banner of the Kashi
Sangharsh SamitiÑwhich include members of the Sangh parivarÑtore down and
later burnt a part of the wooden set erected at Tulsi Ghat. Chanting slogans like
'Tirth sthan ka aapman nahi sahega Hindustan (India will not tolerate the insult of
holy places)', the demonstrators vowed to halt shooting.
The state government's stance only emboldened them further. Finance Minister Harish Chandra Srivastava, elected from the area, asserted that Mehta
ought to have got the script cleared by the state government. His wife Jyotsana, secretary of the BJP women's wing, was one of the leading protesters.
The protesters say that the film on the widows of Varanasi
of the 30s, vilifies Indian culture by presenting some widows
as prostitutes. "Countering
the charge, Nandita stressed that this was only one aspect of the film. "What we are trying to say is that this happened, not that Varanasi is becoming
a brothel. The film does not demean women in any way."
For many protesters, the film title itself was an insult: Water, they felt, was too simplistic a term for the holy Ganga river.
Two days after the destruction at Tulsi Ghat, the Sangh parivar
claimed to have obtained a copy of the script and distributed
Hindi translations of
portions objectionable at a press conference. "The script will be the vital weapon in this battle," said media coordinator Dr K.K. Mishra, former
president of the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) teachers' association.
Although Mehta agreed to make changes in her script after her February 3 meeting with Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, the
Sangh Parivar was adamant that it would not allow shooting until all its misgivings were dispelled.
"Can the censor board or for that matter the Indian government
give a guarantee that the film in no way mars the country's image
in foreign eyes?"
asked Dr Kamashewar Upadhaya, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad official in Varanasi. "If Deepa Mehta wants to shoot widows then why can't she make a
film on Indira or Sonia Gandhi?"
But it is not opposition all the way for the Canada-born Mehta. "The film is showing what prevailed in the 30s," said Prof. Qumar Jahan, head of the
Department of Urdu at BHU. "So shouldn't we tell the truth?" With even religious leaders like Dr Kulpati Tewari, mahant of the Kashi Vishwanath
temple, offering his support, Mehta can still reason with the protesters and save the day.
The protesters say that Water presents some widows as prostitutes.
Nandita (right) insists the film "does not demean women in any way."
It is an agitation none of the members of the Sangh parivar
wants to officially own. "The RSS is in no
way involved in the protests," said top leader K.S. Sudarshan. "The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has
nothing to do with the Water controversy," maintained its senior vice-president Giriraj Kishore. "The
BJP has yet to take a decision on the matter," maintained spokesman Venkaiah Naidu. "We don't want to
talk about it and give undue publicity to a commercial enterprise." This despite the fact that the assault on
the sets ofWater was led by the BJP legislators of Varanasi.
Yet none of them is prepared to condemn the protests; on the
contrary, their tone is distinctly supportive.
"Nobody should take the law into their own hands," averred Venkaiah Naidu, "but nobody should hurt
the feelings of any community either."
"There are many things which, even if true, should not be talked about," asserted Giriraj Kishore. "The
film is a deliberate attempt to defame Hindu institutions. In the name of communal harmony, such films
should neither be made, nor screened."
"Film-makers, writers and other artistes should not transgress
the limits of what the society they are
working within considers permissible," declared Seshadri Chari, editor of Organiser, and adviser to
Sanskar Bharti, the RSS outfit concerned exclusively with culture.
It is not only the Sangh parivar which is lending its weight
to the protestors. So too appears to be the Uttar Pradesh administration.
While not even a
token attempt was made to protect the unit's property from the fury of the mob, the order prohibiting filming arrived with surprising speed. While on
the one hand home secretary V.K. Mittal maintained that hardly any damage had been done to the sets, on the other, officials from Varanasi district
magistrate Alok Kumar to chief secretary Yogendra Narain insisted that the shooting would pose a major threat to law and order in the town.
Why is the constitutional commitment to freedom of expression
being ignored? Why doesWater offend so many sentiments? The senior
parivar leaders may be guarded and diplomatic, those lower in the hierarchy are not. "Breaking up the sets was far too mild an act," responded a
long-time RSS pracharak and former bureaucrat. "The people involved with the film should have been beaten black and blue. They come with foreign
money to make a film which shows India in a poor light because that is what sells in the west. The west refuses to acknowledge our achievements in
any sphere, but is only interested in our snake charmers and child brides. And people like Deepa Mehta pander to them."
"The message is that even after signing a contract with
the government, one cannot be
sure if one will be allowed to shoot in India," says David Hamilton, producer of Water.
"Half the problem is the reputation Mehta brought with
her, as the maker of Fire," confided a
college lecturer associated with Sanskar Bharti. "Is the situation depicted in Fire true of even a
microscopic section of Hindu or Indian society? People fear that she will distort again in the
same way. Then there is the film's association with Shabana Azmi who, with her superior
manner, is anathema to the Sangh. The newspapers too are so insensitive, showing Shabana
getting her head shaved for the film, on their front pages. All this hurts Hindus."
"The media gets worked up aboutWater, but did it protest
in the same way when the offices of
New Indian Express in Bangalore were attacked for carrying a derogatory quotation about
Prophet Mohammed from Dante's Inferno?" asked another Sanskar Bharti member.
But the attack on the sets ofWater is not an isolated incident. A little over a year ago there was
a flare-up over Mehta's Fire, with cinemas being forced to stop its screening, and the film being
referred back to the Censor Board. Months earlier M.F. Husain had been similarly targeted for
his sketches of a nude Sita and Saraswati. Is it merely a coincidence that all these occurred
under the aegis of a BJP-led government at the Centre?
Although Muslim sentiments did keep getting periodically provoked,
notably by Salman
Rushdie's Satanic Verses or Mushirul Hasan's response to it, hardly any such eruptions from
Hindus had been seen under earlier regimes. Are these orchestrated first steps towards a new
culture policy which the RSS and BJP would like to lay down, where the limits of creativity
will be sharply and narrowly defined?
Not so, insisted Organiser's Chari, who himself played a crucial
role in securing the renewed
clearance from the information and broadcasting ministry for Water. "RSS does not believe in
laying down any cultural policy," he said. "Creativity arises out of inner convictions, which cannot be dictated by policy."
I&B Minister Arun Jaitley (right) spoke to representatives
of protesting groups. When I
met him he suggested some changes, says Deepa.
Indeed the Sangh parivar's grouse appears to be not so much
that Water has depicted a seamy
aspect of Hindu cultureÑits treatment of widowsÑbut that similar exposes of Muslim society are
almost never shown. "Why don't people like Mehta ever make films about the plight of Muslim
women arbitrarily divorced by their husbands?" asked Chari.
As for the charge of being 'intolerant', Chari is defensive.
"We have to live with the fact that our
society is very sensitive on certain matters," he maintained. "Leave aside the Muslims, whose
intolerance is taken for granted. Can you say a word against Shivaji in Maharashtra and get away
with it? Can you dream of criticising Rabindranath Tagore or Subhas Bose in West Bengal?
What right have the communists to criticise us, after the fuss they made over the shooting of City
of Joy in Calcutta?"
To the consternation of the hardliners in the parivar, however,
Arun Jaitley refused to be swayed.
Jaitley, with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's apparent backing, chose to ignore the overwhelming sentiment against the film among BJP
supporters by clearing it with minor changes. With this step after a long truce, a confrontation appears to be brewing between Vajpayee and the
hardliners in the Sangh once again.
The hardliners were already unhappy with the Chennai declaration,
which jettisons completely both swadeshi and the Ram mandir issue,
been sent into permanent banwas," quipped one of them.) and the capitulation to the hijackers of IC-814 that followed. They see the permission to
Mehta as part of the same soft approach.
For the UP government, too, the situation is a piquant one.
Given the BJP's poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, and the
turmoil that has
followedÑfrom the removal of Kalyan Singh as chief minister to the power workers strikeÑits grip on the electorate is loosening by the day.Water
could well have provided an emotional issue to regain some of the party's lost support among the Hindu hardcore. But by allowing permission for
filming, this opportunity too is likely to be lost.
Only a few words were deleted
A couple of days after vandals torched the sets of Deepa Mehta's latest production, her eyes
reflected the burning fury of a tigress. "The protestors are misguided people," she said. "They
don't even have the correct copy of my script."
The deletion of these few words does not make any difference
to the essence of the movie
... The important thing was I had to make the film.
It was the second time in as many years that her film had created
a controversy.Water was
supposed to be the last of her trilogy on India, but has whipped up a backlash which might
obscure the protests against Fire. Mehta's previous venture had touched a raw nerve among
conservative Indians with its depiction of lesbian relationships.
Not all Mehta movies have been controversial, though. Sam and
Me, her first full-length
feature film in 1991, was an endearing story of an Indian immigrant in Canada and his
relationship with a cantankerous old Jew. It caught the attention of George Lucas, maker of
Star Wars, who asked her to direct an episode of his Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series. Camilla, her next major venture starring Jessica
Tandy, was about female bonding across generations. The trilogy followed afterwards.
Mehta, divorced from television producer Paul Saltzman, lives in Toronto, and has a daughter, Devyani,16. She frequently travels to India, as she says,
for some ghar ka khana (homely food). The filmmaker spoke to The Week in Delhi before returning to Varanasi to resume shooting. Excerpts:
Why was there such a violent reaction to your film?
They were faceless people from organisations nobody had heard of. They were putting forward impossible demands. I was told to talk and solve the
problem with the leaders of these five or six organisations. The feedback I got was that I should show them the script, and they would tell me if we
could go ahead.
I found that hard to digest. It was difficult for me to relent
and let them decide. As far as I am concerned, I had cleared my
script with the I&B
What did I&B Minister Arun Jaitley tell you?
I found the minister agreeing with me. He spoke to a lot of people representing the protesting groups. It was after this that I met him and he
suggested some changes.
What are these?
They are so minor, basically a few gestures which could be interpreted in another way. The usage of a few words, which was supposedly offending
the sentiments of the people of Varanasi.
After refusing to show your script to anyone, isn't it a compromise?
A compromise? I don't think so. A gesture? Yes, if it will satisfy those people. But the important thing is that only I know my script, and the deletion
of these few words does not make any difference to the essence of the movie I have planned. And the important thing was that I had to make the film.
How come the protestors got a copy of the script?
That is most surprising and distressing. Frankly, I have no idea. But I feel these groups and their leaders are misguided. I don't think what they have
got is the correct copy of my script. I heard that the Samiti wanted references to Dom Rajas (who cremate the dead) to be removed. There was no
reference to Dom Rajas in my script!
You have alleged that an official from the UP administration
might be involved in the violence.
The attacks were well planned. That is what got me thinking about this person who had come to me saying he was from the UP administration. He
said he had great contacts and would help with the security and getting the shooting done smoothly. In return he wanted some of the distribution
rights of the film besides a role for the wife of a friend from Varanasi.
I told him to get lost and he retorted, "Dekhte hain kaise banayenge tumhari film (Let us see how you make the film)."
Why don't you name him?
I don't know if that is a good idea. I have given his name to Jaitley, though.
Do you think it is safe to go ahead with the shooting?
The I&B minister has given me an assurance that the script, with the changes, is cleared and there will be no objection from the government. The
administration will also comply. But they will also have no choice if there is a law and order disruption again. Who knows whether these people will
desist from further attacks?
Isn't it surprising that your films create one controversy
or the other?
I have no idea. I make films I strongly believe in. And all I want to do is to be left alone so that I can make my films. Here they disrupted my work
before even a single shot could be canned. We do have a censor in this country. Why not judge my films the normal way, once they are ready for
The allegation is that your films essentially package India
with all its warts for the western audience.
My films are released both here and abroad. I just depict a scenario. It does not tarnish our reputation outside at all.
Do you think this incident points to growing cultural fascism
in the country.
Absolutely. These type of incidents keep on happening. It's not the only one. I don't know if you can call it cultural terrorism as such, but there is a
general air of intolerance.
K. Sunil Thomas
Through fire and water
Actress Shabana Azmi was opti-mistic about overcoming obstacles to the filming of
Water after she had meetings with the mahant of Kashi Vishvanath temple and
organisations like Nari Chetana Samiti and Samajwadi Jan Parishad, which were
supportive. Dressed in kurta and trousers, Shabana spoke to The Week with a glint in her
tonsured head. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the controversy over Water?
It totally amazes me. After all, there is a system in the country. The Information and
Broadcasting Ministry cleared the script without a single cut. When the ministry did not
find anything objectionable, all this fuss is unnecessary.
How many of these protesters have gone through the script?
They have not
comprehended the essence and spirit of the film.
The protesters say that the film aims at denigrating Kashi
by depicting the
widows as prostitutes and undermining the importance of the Ganga.
The film does not contain any such thing. It only depicts the plight of widows. Take my
role. I play a widow, Shakuntala, who stays in a widhwa ashram, with tonsured head, eats
one meal a day and lives an austere life. Then there is a seven or eight-year-old widow
who fills colours in the monotonous lives of other widows. Nandita (Das) also plays the
role of a widow. A man falls in love with her. He is inspired by Gandhian ideals and
ultimately marries her. Now tell me, where is the image of Kashi maligned and where the
holy Ganga's importance undermined?
Are you saying that people are protesting without knowing the
theme and the
Yes. Everyone is coming out with his own version and interpretation. Please ask them how many of them have gone through the script. They are
protesting just for the sake of protesting. They have not really comprehended the essence and spirit of the film.
Have you received threats regarding the film?
I have not received any threat from anybody. But Deepa (Mehta) has.
How does it feel waiting for long with tonsured head, just
waiting without any action?
We are all victims in the whole game. We have been penalised by the (state) government by denying us permission to shoot. The whole thing is
like... a sufferer being punished.
The same party is ruling at the Centre and in the stateÑone clears everything and the other denies permission to shoot. They (the state
government) are not listening to their own government (in the Centre). All this is exasperating. What is the government doing to ensure that the
shooting takes place?
People have pledged you their support. Will it make any difference?
Yeah, a lot of people have expressed their solidarity. It really heartens me. The question is not how much difference it will make. The vital thing
is that people of Kashi have begun to realise the reality.
You worked in Fire which faced a lot of protests and now it
is Water. What difference do you find?
Fire faced protests when it was running in cinema halls. But in the case of Water, protests have begun even before the shooting has taken place.
The guys at the Viswa Samvad Kendra, an organisation in Kashi, are fuming.
And they are furiously clattering away at their typewriters, issuing releases to
counter Deepa Mehta's press conferences. Their trump card, her opponents
believe, is that they have got a copy of the script.
Determined opposition: The Sanskar Bharti team
In a release, 'The Truths about the movie Water', they allege
that in the story
Mehta is deliberately trying to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus,
besides belittling Kashi's spiritual tradition. They are livid she is trying to
denigrate the revered Ganga.
The release quotes a few lines from the script where a character
Kashi: "I know by what means have Kashi become famous. Plague that
spreads like wild contagion, venerable-untrue priests and pundits and don't
forget... the half-burnt corpses which float in the Ganga.... This is the sacred Ganga.... Yes, Kashi has many qualities. I am filled with hatred for
The script, they allege, also portrays widows deplorably.
Madhumati, a character, is thus quoted: "You should know this very well that there is no difference between a whore and a widow." (Page 96)
And Bhagawati adds: "Narayan, don't you know that Brahmins
and gods have the right to sleep with any woman and that such
women are thereby
blessed." (Page 97).
Certain dialogues are objected to as they aim at spreading
disrespect towards Hindu texts. In page 87, Shakuntala, a widow,
asks pundit Mansaram,
"Punditji, have you read all our Hindu texts? Do they teach us thisÑto treat these widows so cruelly?"
Mansaram replies, "All our Hindu texts have given two choices for widows. Either they give up all worldly affairs or die on the husband's pyre."