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Aftermath of an Abortion

Shohini Ghosh

By Devyani Saltzman
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. 256, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Shooting Water is Devyani Saltzman’s memoirs about her experiences during the shooting of her mother Deepa Mehta’s film Water. The title is a bit misleading because the book is not so much about the shooting of the film (even though it is also about that) but about her struggle to grow up in two worlds after the divorce of her parents. Her relationship with her mother becomes perennially haunted by her decision to live with her father. Devyani, named after the character played by Suchitra Sen in Asit Sen’s Mamta, comes to India to work on her mother’s production where, apart from gaining work experience she hopes to heal her troubled relationship with her mother under the grim shadow of her childhood choice.   Devyani’s trip to Varanasi as an assistant in her mother’s crew plunges her directly in the middle of the chaos that gets unleashed when Hindutva groups go on a rampage against the shooting of Water and she falls in love with a crew member who is already in a relationship. The twin crises make her encounter with India emotionally overwhelming. The book therefore deals with two journeys, a personal one and that of the film Water. I must confess at the outset that the personal journey failed to hold either my interest or patience. To be fair, there are some moving passages but they are overtaken by a preoccupation with coming-of-age angst and an obsession with documenting the banality of it. Unfortunately, the least explored relationship in the book is the one with her mother. Devyani’s time in Varanasi is so taken up by her unrequited love for the crew member that it displaces her engagement with both her mother and the film. In fact, it even displaces any ethical dilemmas that such a ‘kiss-and-tell’ confessional might entail given that the ‘frank account’ clearly violates the consent of several people involved. The journey about the making of the film is comparatively more interesting even though those familiar with the controversy are unlikely to make too many new discoveries.   Water was meant to be Deepa Mehta’s third film in the elements trilogy after Fire and Earth. Mehta started shooting for the film in January 2000 after the film was cleared by the I&B Ministry under the NDA coalition. The female leads were to be played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita ...

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