Elizabeth Bumiller in the New York Times:
India has made headlines as an emerging superpower, a land of high-tech multimillionaires and a vast new market for American goods. But there is another India too, and it is not just the one of villages and ox carts that has always been best known in the West.
This is the disturbing India of the Hindu widow, a woman traditionally shunned as bad luck and forced to live in destitution on the edge of society. Her husband’s death is considered her fault, and she has to shave her head, shun hot food and sweets and never remarry. In the pre-independence India of the 1930’s, the tradition applied even to child brides of 5 or 6 who had been betrothed for the future by their families but had never laid eyes on their husbands.
Into this milieu now comes the director Deepa Mehta with “Water,” a lush new film that opened on Friday, about Chuyia, an 8-year-old widow in the India of 1938. She has barely met her husband but is banished by her parents to a decrepit widows’ house on the edge of the Ganges. Chuyia is left there sobbing, in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the film, but she insists her parents will soon return for her.