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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 18:22 GMT
India to show controversial film
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

director Deepa Mehta (centre) on set
Deepa Mehta [r] completed Water in Sri Lanka after protests in India
An Oscar-nominated film based on the plight of Hindu widows is to be released in India seven years after it created huge controversy.

Director Deepa Mehta, an Indian-born Canadian citizen, was forced by Hindu fundamentalists to stop shooting the movie, Water, in the town of Varanasi.

She had to re-shoot it with a brand new cast in Sri Lanka.

The film, Canada's entry to the Oscars for the Best Foreign Film category, has made it to the final five films.

That was in contrast to India's nomination, the Bollywood film Rang De Basanti (Colour Me Saffron), which was not in the last five.

Trouble

Water is being distributed by BR Films in India, and its Business Director, Sanjay Bhutiani, told the BBC they had signed a deal with the makers of the movie at least five months before it was nominated for an Oscar.

Deepa Mehta
I have no trepidation nor fear about the release of Water in India
Deepa Mehta

"One of the main actors in Water, John Abraham was working with our chief, Ravi Chopra on a project and he suggested that Mr Chopra watch the film and see what he thought of it," Mr Bhutiani said.

"We had a private screening of the film, loved it and immediately decided to bring it to India. "We've scheduled for the film to hit the theatres in March because we wanted to have a proper music release function and we are still waiting for the negatives to arrive here."

Mr Bhutiani said he did not expect any trouble or controversy around its release.

"When we saw the film, we saw nothing controversial in it. It is an Indian story which has been beautifully told," he said.

Deepa Mehta told the BBC website she had "no trepidation nor fear about the release of Water in India".

The film will have a "limited release" in 15-20 cities and towns to begin with.

Disowned

Mr Bhutiani said that was done quite regularly in India.

"In order to gauge a new product and the audience it will cater to, a movie is released in select theatres and places unlike a Bollywood pot-boiler which hits practically every theatre across the country," he said.

The third of Deepa Mehta's "Elements" trilogy, the film is set in the holy city of Varanasi in the 1930s and depicts the lives of Hindu widows.

Don poster
Water has upstaged Bollywood in the Oscars

Even today many Hindu widows in India lead difficult lives, especially in small towns and rural areas where remarrying is looked down upon.

Often disowned by their families, they are forced to beg and resort to other desperate means to survive.

Ms Mehta shot some of the film in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh with Bollywood actresses Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das but had to stop midway following protests from Hindu fundamentalists.

In 2000 they ransacked the movie set, arguing that the film tarnished the city and denigrated Hindu traditions.

Ms Mehta finally re-shot the whole film four years later in Sri Lanka with a brand new cast, including actress Lisa Ray and Bollywood actor John Abraham.

The movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005 and was also screened at other international festivals where it received wide acclaim.




SEE ALSO
Hindu widows film opens festival
29 Jun 05 |  Entertainment
Film highlights widows' plight
09 Sep 04 |  South Asia
Safe filming promised for Water
24 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Director fights Indian film ban
09 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Controversial film 'Water' cleared
03 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Plug pulled on sacred city film
30 Jan 00 |  South Asia

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