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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 14:27 GMT
Controversial film 'Water' cleared

Deepa Mehta with cast members Shabana Azmi (L) and Nandita Das (R)

The Indian Government has permitted filmmaker Deepa Mehta to go ahead and shoot her controversial film, Water, after minor changes to the script.

Water is the third in a trilogy of films on the 'elements' and is set in the northern city of Varanasi, sacred to Hindus.

Some words used in the dialogue of my film Water are being misinterpreted
Deepa Mehta
Last week, hardline Hindu organisations ransacked the movie set, protesting that the film tarnished the city and denigrated Hindu traditions.

Indian information and broadcasting minister, Arun Jaitley, said his ministry approved the script after Ms Mehta, removed sentences which "offended the sentiments of the people of Varanasi".

"Some words used in the dialogue of my film Water are being misinterpreted to give it a meaning which has never been intended," Ms Mehta said.

Deepa Mehta: Cleared to shoot
"In order to avoid any ambiguity, I have submitted a fresh proposal wherein I have changed some words in the script to avoid any scope for misinterpretation," she said.

Mr Jaitley said the state administration of Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located, had been informed about the decision.


Earlier, the state administration halted the shooting of the film saying it would disturb the peace in the city.

Members of the governing Bhartiya Janata Party and hardline Hindu organisations had violently protested against the filming in Varanasi.

"The honour of Varanasi is at stake. We will not allow the film to be shot till they remove all objectionable words and scenes," Kaushal Upadhyaya of the World Hindu Council said.

The film is set in Varanasi in the 1930s and depicts the lives of Hindu widows.

The honour of Varanasi is at stake
Kaushal Upadhyaya World Hindu Council
Protesters were unhappy over reports that the film shows a relationship between a high-caste widow and a low-caste Hindu.

They were also angry over rumours that it showed Hindu widows being forced into prostitution because of financial hardship.

In 1998, the Hindu right-wing Shiv Sena party led violent protests against the screening of the film Fire, the first in Deepa Mehta's trilogy.

It centred on contemporary India's attitude towards women and included a controversial lesbian love scene.

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