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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 15:44 GMT
Director fights Indian film ban

mehta at delhi news conference Mehta says politics lay behind attempts to stop her film

By Daniel Lak in Delhi

The controversial Indo-Canadian film, Water, is to be completed, despite a ban on continued filming in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

The director and writer of the script, Deepa Mehta, told a packed news conference In Delhi that she is determined to complete her film and will go anywhere in India to do so.

I really don't court controversy
Deepa Mehta, film director
Ms Mehta, who was born in India but is now based in Canada said she is looking at other locations around India, despite having lost about $650,000 in two weeks of trying to film in Varanasi.

The state government of Uttar Pradesh ordered the suspension of filming on Water for two weeks after protests by some hardline Hindu groups and extremist political parties.

They said the depiction in the script of Hindu widows was offensive. Other groups have said the portrayal of widowhood is accurate and powerful.

Controversy vs notoriety

An earlier Deepa Mehta film, Fire, also caused controversy because it featured two sisters-in-law, rejected by their husbands, falling in love and having a sexual relationship.

Ms Mehta told the news conference that she did not like to be controversial.

Shiv Sena activists protest against the film
"I really don't court controversy. I don't sit down and say 'OK I'm going to do a film that's going to cause controversy.' It hasn't helped me in the past. the fate of Fire shows that if anything else it's gaining notoriety. I don't want notoriety," she said.

Ms Mehta said politics lay behind attempts to stop her film, not real concern for the religious or community feelings of the people of India.

She said she suspected that opposition to the film began when she was not able to hand distribution rights over to a local businessman in Varanasi.

Extremist politics helped the affair snowball into something much larger and more dangerous, she said.

She told the news conference that Hindu scholars and community leaders in Varanasi had examined her script and there was nothing in the least offensive in it.

Other film makers in India have described attempts to stop the film as cultural fascism and proof of the weakness of the central government in Delhi in the face of extremist behaviour.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Shooting of Indian film banned
03 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Controversial film 'Water' cleared
30 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Plug pulled on sacred city film
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Filming India's sex secrets
15 Feb 99 |  South Asia
India approves lesbian film
14 Dec 98 |  South Asia
Indian film ignites political controversy
13 Nov 98 |  South Asia
Lesbian film sets India on Fire

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