"The screening [of Water] yesterday was a great success and people were really moved by the film," said Deepa Mehta who is both scriptwriter and director. "When it was shown in London, Terence Stamp came but he left immediately after the screening without saying anything.

By Robert Flemming

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Published: Wed 14 Dec 2005, 1:12 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:50 PM

Talking to David Hamilton (the producer), I said 'Obviously he really doesn't like it'. A couple of days later he called and said he was so moved by the film that he started walking and just didn't want to talk. When he reached home he realised that he hadn't said anything to me and took two days to track me down. He said that no film had affected him as this one since Lawrence of Arabia."

Water is the last film of an elemental trilogy. All concerned with themes that affect women, the first was Fire which dealt with sexuality while Earth tackled war. With Water, the subject of a child widow enchained by Hindu custom and banished to an ashram to atone for her past sins might seem to be a tough challenge.

"I thought it was the easiest one to make out it's the one that is closest to me. Particularly because the times in which we're living are decidedly hostile and the misrepresentation of religion for personal benefit really intrigues me. And in essence, that's what Water is all about."

First started in 2000, filming was shut down by fundamentalists and extremists. Deepa says that it took four years for her to stop feeling hurt and angry. But the sort of energy that fundamentalism evokes is not just limited to India or Hinduism.

"We've seen the rise of fundamentalism all over the world. It's a difficult battle but we must fight it and be aware of our necessity for freedom of expression. That's why Water became very important. As Bunuel said: 'Only when a film becomes very specific does it become universal'. And I think that's what's happened. People are affected by the film because there's a resonance for them in their own culture."

So is there a message in the film?

"Not really," says Deepa. "The reason I loved the script even when I was writing it is that it's basically humanitarian cinema. It's the importance of compassion in an increasingly hostile world. If there is a message that's it but how people interpret that will be different from one person to the next. Whatever, all of them come out of the film deeply moved and feeling how important compassion is in our world today."

Deepa Mehta's next project working on the script of her next film entitled Exclusion, due to shot in September 2006.

"It's based on historical fact. In 1914 a shipload of Indian dissidents fled to Canada but they weren't allowed in because the Canadians feared a 'brown invasion'. In a way, it was the start of racism there. I'm really intrigued about what makes people exclude other people."

And a final comment on the film Water?

"Now that the trilogy has been completed, there is a sense of closure. That, along with the way that I respond to it, makes me feel very good. Great reviews are rare and I'm thrilled."

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