“Water” caused a spark in a tinderbox in 2000. It had to be doused. So its locale was moved from Varanasi to Sri Lanka. There, its production was kept secret until completed. India’s Uttar Pradesh (UP) government had to withdraw the film’s location permits when mobs stormed the ghats along the Ganges, destroying the film’s sets and burning effigies of Mehta. “I’ve gone through an ordeal by fire – no pun intended. In fact (Pakistani litterateur) Bapsi Sidhwa has written a book on the making of ‘Water’, which will be published when the film is released,” said Deepa Mehta – Water’s Indo-Canadian desi filmmaker and director. Its commercial release in India still remains a big question mark though. But a motley crowd of Delhi’s crème de la crème, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife, watched it recently in rapt attention as her Water had its first screening in the capital. At the end loud sobs were heard from various corners of the auditorium. “It was unreal! I had a great deal of insecurity about the reactions to Water in India. They were all laid to rest that evening,” said the relieved filmmaker. In Dubai and Karachi, its recent screening drew accolades too. “I’m so glad I’ve got it out of my system. Now I feel I could just retire. I’m that satisfied with ”Water”,” she has been quoted saying.
Mehta lives in a villa in suburban Toronto, Canada. Last year the Toronto Film Festival screened her Water. She and her film got standing ovations. “‘Water’ was the last of my elemental trilogy after ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’. I felt incomplete without it. I just had to make ‘Water’,” the director said, whose script had sparked violent protests and even death threats in India. When asked what her next project was, Mehta wryly replied: “I refuse to do a film about Air”. Recently, an eclectic crowd of Pakistanis assembled in Karachi to watch it. The movie reportedly brought a packed auditorium of Muslims to forget their differences, sympathize with each other and take a moment to ponder that which has divided Indians and Pakistanis for so long.