How the study of Hinduism deepens one’s understanding of the film Water by Deepa Mehta

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Hindu themes are universal in movies, and they usually discuss it. What is clear about the films is that their attitudes vary (Knot 50). Notably, Deepa’s film, water focuses on religion and culture and presents patriarchal Hindu attitudes to women and sexuality. In fact, the film remains as a powerful indictment of male hegemony in Hindu. Water is set in the sacred Hind city, and it examines the plights of a community of socially ostracized widows in which their lives are controlled by several character restrictions. According to Hindu society, widows are not allowed to marry again once they are bereaved (Knot 57). Widows that do not have sons are sent to the ashram to live a monastic life. There several devotions in the movie, some of which are similar to the ones found in Hinduism. Therefore, the study of Hinduism is essential to understanding the film water.

The first devotion that is evident in the movie is that of bereaved women living a life of asceticism as their duty to their dead husbands. Indeed, this is what Mehta was expected to do because she had been widowed while still a child. Her family forces her to go and live in ashram. It is vital to state that what Mehta faces as a widow is not new to Hindu community. According to (Muesse 100), when a woman loses her husband, she is required to renounce all her worldly pleasures. On hearing the death of her husband, she is expected to break her bangles and should never wear jewelry. Widows wear red powder in their parting and their foreheads to denounce their married status.

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Women, particularly the economically vulnerable engage in prostitution. The dharma is demonstrated by Kalyani in the film who does it in ashrams, where Madhumati is involved in organizing liaisons between her and the clients to provide money for the households. Surprisingly, Kalyani is permitted to retain long hair to draw the attention of customers. On the other hand, the other widows in the film are expected to shave to symbolize abandonment. Shaving is prevalent in Hindu. Orthodox widows are supposed to cut their hairs or shave their heads (Muesse 105). In fact, they are forced to leave their saris. The acts that widows are encouraged to engage in are to make them unattractive for male sexual desires.

A tragic love story is also contained in the film. Narayana marries Kalyani, and the union between the two is viewed as anathema to conservative Hindu opinion as well as threatening to ashram’s revenue. The marriage is blocked Madhumati by imprisoning Kalyan in her room and ordering her to cut her hair. Brahmins have the right to sleep with everybody they wish. The act is prevalent in the movie, whereby Kalyani sleeps with Narayana’s father, who, in turn, justifies his action. Notably, women in Hindu are considered lesser beings, just as Muesse (110) states. That is the reason Narayana’s father justifies his act on the grounds of the caste system where he belonged. In India, where Hinduism is practiced, the caste system is significant, and those who belong to the highest social class exploit people from the lower caste (Knot 130). Surprisingly, women who sleep with Brahmins are believed to be blessed. The hypocrisy of the priestly class is depicted here because it is supposed to be concerned with the purity, yet it is in the forefront in justifying the exploitation of widows and children. It is important to state that Narayana’s rejection of his father signifies the radical act in traditional Indian community where a father deserved total respect (Knot 132).

It is essential to state that widows are denied their core of their womanliness as a symbol of castration. It is worrying to note that Kalyani was ashamed, despaired, and eventually drowns herself in the waters, but she was saved by Narayana. Another evidence of prostitution is evident where Chuyia is sexually abused. Chuyia is forced by Madhumati to find a source of income for the ashram. The persuasion is another evidence that males mistreat females in Hindu authorities (Knot 140) The suffering the widows undergo in the film are justified in the dharma of a widow, which holds that a woman who has lost her husband should suffer until her death, have self-restraint, and be chaste. In fact, they believe such a woman goes to heaven.

In conclusion, understanding Hinduism is important for one to enjoy watching water movie. The reason is that it is a reflection of how women are socially and economically exploited. The manner in which Mehta is forced to shave her does not appear in movie only, but it is a practical experience of the Indian widows. The social class that is witnessed in the film and how the priestly class exploits the vulnerable women and children is also real in Indian society. Although women are mistreated, some of them are conscious of injustices, and this is the reason Kalyani was helped to escape by Shakuntala, who did not like what was happening. Water is viewed as a continuation of Hindu reformist tradition that has tried to uplift social status of the widows, such as allowing them to remarry. The culture is explicitly depicted by use of the image of Chuyia, who will be potentially happier in future.

  • Knot, Kim. Hinduism: A very short introduction. Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1998. Print.
  • Muesse, Mark. The Hindu tradition: A concise introduction. Augsburg, Germany: Augsburg, 2011. Print.
  • Water. Ex. Prod. Mehta Deepa. YouTube. 2005. DVD.

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