Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Oscar-nominated film based on the plight of Hindu widows is to be released in India seven years after it created huge controversy

Monica Chadha:

The third of Deepa Mehta's "Elements" trilogy, the film is set in the holy city of Varanasi in the 1930s and depicts the lives of Hindu widows.

Even today many Hindu widows in India lead difficult lives, especially in small towns and rural areas where remarrying is looked down upon.

Often disowned by their families, they are forced to beg and resort to other desperate means to survive.

Ms Mehta shot some of the film in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh with Bollywood actresses Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das but had to stop midway following protests from Hindu fundamentalists.

In 2000 they ransacked the movie set, arguing that the film tarnished the city and denigrated Hindu traditions.

Ms Mehta finally re-shot the whole film four years later in Sri Lanka with a brand new cast, including actress Lisa Ray and Bollywood actor John Abraham.

The movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005 and was also screened at other international festivals where it received wide acclaim.

Widows' suicides divide India along cultural lines

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