Director Deepa MEHTA's visually hypnotic film Water (2005) is set in a House of Widows in India in the 1930s, and is the tale of eight-year-old Chuyia (Sarala), a child bride whose husband has just died. Under traditional Hindu law, she will be a widow for the rest of her life. The arrival of this inquisitive and innocent child shatters the soul-destroying isolation that the other women have accepted. She makes a particular impression on Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a beautiful widow who is hired out as a prostitute by the unscrupulous woman (Manorama) who is in charge of the home. Chuyia meets Narayan (John Abraham), a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and when she brings him together with Kalyani, the two fall in love. Chuyia's own tragedy stirs rebellion against the tyranny of the widows' outmoded and controversial way of life, and propels the women in the house toward a form of freedom.
Water is a rich, complex work that completes Mehta's self-described "elements trilogy," which includes Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). It is the work of a deeply committed humanist, made with tenderness and a true concern for the plight of women in similar situations. It won GENIE awards for best actress (Seema Biswas, who plays one of the widows in the house), cinematography and musical score, and was nominated for the 2006 Oscar for best foreign-language film.