Thursday, August 01, 2002

Fire, Earth....?

and Water. These are not just the elements, but also names of the three movies that were to comprise Deepa Mehta's trilogy. Unfortunately, as a result of the close-mindedness and hooliganism of the Hindu right in India complemented by the repressive actions displayed by the Varanasi government, Water, Deepa Mehta's critique of Hinduism's treatment of widows was silenced and forcibly shutdown. It is unclear whether or not shooting, and the film will ever actually re-commence, but in an account by one of the assistants on the film, Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, these details become clear

"The day before filming was due to begin, the crew was informed that there were a few complications with gaining location permits. The following day we were greeted with the news that 2,000 protesters had stormed the ghats, destroying the main film set, burning and throwing it into the holy river. Protesters burnt effigies of Deepa Mehta, and threats to her life began. There were three main political/religious parties leading the angry mob: the BJP( Bharatiya Janata Party), the VHU (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), both well established groups within the state of Uttar Pradesh; and the KSRSS (Kashi Sanskrit Raksha Sangharsh Samiti), a party formed overnight from the RSS (Raksha Sangharsh Samiti) specifically targeting Deepa Mehta. The KSRSS claimed their role was as the guardians of the culture of Varanasi and came forward with threats of violence against her. The head of the RSS approaching press with statements to support this:

"Breaking up the sets was far too mild an act, the people involved with the film should have been beaten black and blue. They come with foreign money to make a film which shows India in poor light because that is what sells in the west. The west refuses to acknowledge our achievements in any sphere, but is only interested in our snake charmers and child brides. And people like Deepa Mehta pander to them." (The Week magazine, India, Feb 13th, 2000)"

One would think that these Hindu groups would have more on their mind than harassing and trying to beat people "black and blue." Seemingly providing livelihood, education, and other skills to India's masses is not on their agenda. Maybe the RSS/VHP should put some of those things above harrassment of minorities and actors trying to tell a story. The zealousness and self righteousness that groups belonging to the Hindu right express is shocking and an extreme opposite to the personality that one asssociates with piety or piousness. Indeed, beating people black and blue is not a fundamental of the Hindu Dharma.

Anyway, it seems Mehta may have tabled the project for a while (I hope she re-shoots it) as it seems she has just completed another film entitled "Bollywood Hollywood", apparently a film more masala than the rest.


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