Deepa Meetha’s tale of two young widows – an eight-year-old and a 20something woman (the luminous Lisa Ray in a serious role) is as heartbreaking as it is poetic and achingly gorgeous. Set in Varnasi circa 1930, the film takes cues from Romeo and Juliet and Bollywood to explore the cruel realities for widowed women forced into an ashram where they subsist until they are old enough to sell their bodies. With the Ganges as its central metaphor, the film is awash in water symbols: funeral pyres on the river banks, floating candles, morning ablutions, and the purifying monsoon rains. A tragedy at heart, the film is nonetheless full of energetic life-affirming scenes of dance, play and love. [canada, 2005]

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