Provoked turned out to be an anti climax for me as I was all geared up to watch a powerful film which would knock my socks off and well to speak literally nothing happened! Asihwarya has tried (with vast improvement over her other movies) yet failed to move the viewers. The anguish and stains of harassment that should have been visible on the face of an abused woman is conspicuously absent. Yes a few blue bruises do reassure us that she was abused but still at large something was lacking. For instance when a woman says she feels “Free” in jail it should be more than few words. Well she looked as free as she did when she was supposed to look abused. So much so that even during her final court hearing where she was supposed to look a much stronger woman, she sported no other noticeable changes other a new suit and shorter hair cut. Of course ash fans and those who feel otherwise can lay the blame on my hypothetically faulty eyesight! On the whole I walked of the cinema hall with an acute sense of deprivation.
On the other hand Water was subtle yet strong. Set it tainted times, penned to evoke pathos, with irony lingering on every edge, it still managed to come out pure akin to a lotus in a dirty pond. Maybe it was the magic woven by 7 year old Chuhiya( Sarala) still in denial of her new home. Maybe it was the child like innocence sparkling in contrast against a cynical and peevish world. Her questions like “ How long will I be a widow”, “When will I go home”, “Where do man widows go” are brutally honest. Even her anger which brought on the parrot “Mittu’s” death comes out clean and unadulterated. Her infections laughter and spontaneous affection for all is heightened when she is led by the pimp across the river. It was indeed gut wrenching to imagine her plight but that is all you can do-imagine, because Deepa Mehta has steered clear of any loud and explicit scenes and the whole movie becomes more powerful simply because it is not what you hear or see that affects you but the implicit undercurrents that are sure to rock your core.
Madhumati (Manorama playing the head of the ashram a conniving scheming mass of vulgarity and self-interest), Shakutala (Seema Biswas -clenched and controlled) and the pimp (Raghuvir Yadav a singing eunuch) blend beautifully with the central love story embodied with supreme sensitivity in the Narayan (John) – Kalyani (Lisa) pair. A love story which might seem unbelievable and abstract even fifty years from today but yet somehow manages to set off a yearning in you to believe in similar idealism. From the first lines of the movie, a direct pick from Manus scripts “widow should either burn in the pyre of her husband, or marry her husband's younger brother or lead a life of self-restraint and be long suffering until death” to the last scene where a train is leaving the station with Chuhiya clinging to Narayan, ironically brings us to face with a movie which encompasses a gamut of emotions in barely two hours and yet manages to remain undiluted and unique.
Afterthought- I have not talked about the plot or performance in detail because this is not a review. Please do Google if you want to find out more.