So there’s a new movie I saw at the Tribeca Film Fest last week which is the third installment of some sort of trilogy (Fire, Earth). The first one (Fire) was famous for exploring loveless marriages and lesbianism, which promptly led to protests, bans, and political discussion in India. As a movie, it was pretty good, not really amazing, but when a movie breaks taboo, you have to claim its great because its bold, not necessarily if its a good movie (see “Last Temptation of Christ”), something I regularly refer to as “more interesting than good”.

So I saw “Water” expecting it to be great and profound. It sucked. Again, the reasons are varied (see below) but ultimately it takes an important social commentary and drops the ball. The base story is about widows and what a terrible lot they have in Indian society of the 1930’s – isolated in a religious ashram and shunned by society, many of whom were so young when they got married that they don’t remember the groom. A real social tragedy.

One problem being that like all Indian movies, there needs to be some implausible love story running through for anyone to pay attention. Why must a socially critical and historically informative movie have to have unrequited love? It really cheapens the message, which incidentally should draw attention toward gender inequality of the present day. Additionally, theres an element of “Monsoon Wedding” to the whole thing – that sickly feeling of Orientalism which makes you feel like your culture is just colorful exotic windowdressing for other people to marvel at. Again, it feels sort of inauthentic and unbelievable – like a Merchant-Ivory movie.

Additionally, it was pretty poorly acted (with the exception of the little girl, Sarala as Chuiya) and the music was pretty saccharine. At one point my friend leaned over and asked if they were using the music from “Titanic”. The attempt to tie in political history was very Forrest Gumpian and didn’t contribute to the story or make any statements at all.

Ultimately, this is an Eastern story told from a Western point of view, which coupled with being sort of boring, really undoes the whole thing. But being that this is the “important Indian movie” of right now, it deserves to be seen so that at least we can recognize something good when it finally shows up.

The real difficulty I’m having is the lack of narrative in film or literature which speaks to myself and my cohort of Indian-Americans of the second generation. I think it’s fair to say no one has tackled that story yet. The attempts started at “American Desi” and only devolved into the cartoonish “Dude Where’s the Party Yaar” et al. In a video store in London, I saw a whole shelf of these movies which I could already tell had the same jokes and Kal Penn in all of them. Yes, our parents are quirky and funny and want us to be doctors, but isn’t there more to this story? C’mon artists, get a move on.

Edit: I neglected to mention that Lisa Ray is unbelievably hot although not the best actress, but super duper hot.

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