Water has been one of my most enjoyable cinematic experiences’ – Deepa Mehta

Water, the film made by Indian born Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, was previously shot in India with Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das as its principal characters. The film was shelved following protests from fundamentalist groups and completed five years later in Sri Lanka.

The film is now nominated for the Oscars in the Best film in foreign language category. The movie is even slated for an India release on 9 March 2007. At a press conference held in Mumbai, the filmmaker shared her experiences.

What is the difference between the Water that was shot in India and the one that was eventually completed later in Sri Lanka?
In the five years that the film was in limbo, I grew as a person and in turn as a filmmaker. Also, the cast and the location were different. But other than that, the script remained entirely the same. Also, this Water is far more cinematic and detailed than the previous one.

Is any aspect of filmmaking affected while working on it the second time around?
It was an exhilarating and positive experience to make the film the second time round, because it was like starting again, on a clean slate. Water is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I have ever had in my whole life.

Why was the working title of Water different?
We just did not want to attract any attention, we wanted to shoot our film very quietly. So we said to everybody in the crew to think of the most stupid name that we could think of, and that is how Water was titled Rivermoon for the time being.

Water was not allowed to be shot in India. It has been nominated for the Oscars as a Canadian entry, it also represents India in some way, doesn’t it?
The film is a Canadian entry, it is not an Indian entry and it feels absolutely fine because India didn’t enter it for the Oscars. If it had, it would be a different story. The film is in Hindi and has an Indian storyline. Canada is aware about that and is happy too. We as Indians too should be happy about it, thinking that if we couldn’t do it, someone else has done it!  

After a long time, you have extracted a performance out of veteran actor Manorama. How easy or tough was it considering the fact that she hasn’t acted for so many years now?
I am a big fan of Manorama. I had seen her in a film called Dus Laakh, and ever since then, I have really enjoyed all her characters, but then she disappeared. So I had told my casting director Shobha D’cunha to find Manorama for me. She did find her living in a chawl with her nephew. When I went to meet her, she hadn’t worked for 18 years but she is a totally dedicated artiste. To work with her was very easy because she understands that for good performances, hard work is essential, so she gave it her 100 per cent.

This is the third time you have worked with A R Rahman.
When one works with Rahman, it’s not enough to just tell him the song situation, one has to tell him about the characters. He had even worked on the music for Fire and Earth.

Which was the toughest film to make in the trilogy – Fire, Earth or Water?
Earth was the most difficult to make because it was an epic scale in terms of all the action involved and to capture the tragedy of the partition. The making of Water, when we finally did make it in Sri Lanka, was the easiest to make. It was the most peaceful shoot I have ever had. So when I think of Water, I have a smile because in one sense the first Water was the most difficult and the second one was rather peaceful.

Rohini Bhandari

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