LEARNING GUIDE TO:
SUBJECTS — World/India; Religions/Hinduism; ELA: symbol and ironyAge: 13+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual situations, and for brief drug use; Drama; 2005; 117 minutes; In Hindi with English subtitles; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
Description: Set in India in 1938, Water opens as Chuyia, an 8-year-old child bride is told by her father that the husband she has seldom met has died. In traditional Indian society, widows are not allowed to remarry and with no son to take care of her, Chuyia must be sent to a widows' ashram to live out a monastic life of deprivation, purity, and prayer. She is befriended by a beautiful young widow, Kalyani, who is forced to work as a prostitute to earn money for the Ashram. Soon after Chuyia arrives, Kalyani meets Narayan a young, handsome follower of Mahatma Gandhi, a national leader who advocates many reforms in Indian society. Tragedy, as well as hope, follows in the unfolding of the story.
Rationale for Using the Movie: Water exposes students to the rich world of foreign film and to the progressive changes that are reshaping India as well as other rising third world countries. Water is a unique learning experience. Students have been exceptionally open to its story and the many lessons it teaches.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide:
History Classes: Students will learn about conflicts that come as tradition faces modernity by focusing on the plight of widows in India and the advances advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.
ELA Classes: The aesthetic qualities of the movie offer an opportunity to explore visual symbols and other devices used in literature as well as film, such as irony and symbol. Students will exercise research and writing skills.
Possible Problems: Minimal. The film earned a PG 13 rating because of sexual situations consisting of verbal references to Kalyani serving as a prostitute and Chuyia being sexually abused. No sex act is shown or described. The brief drug use mentioned in the rating consists of the villains of the story taking a few puffs on a cigar laced with opium or containing some other drug. It is not shown as anything anyone would want to do.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU
SUGGESTIONS FOR USING WATER IN THE CLASSROOM
Information Helpful in Appreciating the Film:
Students will better appreciate the movie if they know some basic facts about:
(2) Hindu Religion and Indian Culture,
(3) Mahatma Gandhi, and
(4) Treatment of Widows in India Today.
(A) students can be assigned to read TWM's Pre-Viewing Enrichment Worksheet for "Water" in class or as homework, responding to the questions in journal or short essay format;
(B) teachers can provide the information in the worksheet to the class through direct instruction; for lecture notes with prompts, see Introductory Lecture; or
(C) following the Facilitator/Learner model of instruction, groups or individual students can research the following or related topics and present their findings to the class:
After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.
1. Shakuntala asks, "What happens when our conscience conflicts with our faith?" What is the conflict and how does she resolve it at the end of the movie? Suggested Response: Shakuntala's faith tells her to follow the ancient texts that prohibit widow remarriage and require that even child widows must live a life of deprivation and isolation. Shakuntala's conscience says that Chuyia should have a better future and should be allowed to remarry. Shakuntala's conscience prevails in the end when she sends Chuyia away on Gandhi's train.
2. Narayan's name, which is a Sanskrit name for Vishnu, The Supreme Being, is common in India. The film's director deepens the connection between Narayan and the god by showing the young man playing the flute, which is the instrument of Lord Krishna, another Hindu god. In what ways does Narayan play a god-like role in the film? Suggested Response: In his open mindedness to Kalyani and his conversations with others, Narayan shows advanced character. When Kalyani tells Narayan that he will be the one to who will decide which traditions should be retained and which should be thrown away, she is seeing the man as a spiritual leader. Finally, the fact that he saves Chuyia and rides the train into the future with Gandhi further suggests the connection.
3. An archetype which pervades all human cultures is that of the close relationship of children to innocence, the devine and truth-telling ("out of the mouths of babes"). Chuyia, when she first sees Kalyani, calls her an angel. There is symbol, irony and metaphor in this scene. What are they? Suggested Response: Kalyani and what happens to her is a symbol of what the corruption of Indian society does to widows and to the concept of purity. The irony is that the prostitute is one of the purest souls in the ashram. The metaphor is that a prostitute is equated with being something very dissimilar to the role of prostitute, an angel. This equation fills out the description of Kalyani's character in important ways.
4. All cultures have social rules that regulate gender roles as well as relationships between women and men and many of these cultures are struggling with the changes that come with modernization. What kinds of changes do you see in your own culture as patriarchy fades and women gain increased independence? Where do you see resistance? Suggested Response: Answers will vary: Students may mention ideas on a wide range of topics, including dating, divorce, single parenting, abortion, women in positions of authority, etc. All honest responses are acceptable.
For more than 50 additional discussion questions relating to theme, literary devices and the historical context of this movie, click here.
Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:
1. Select one of the following quotes attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and write an informal essay in which you explain the quote and show how its meaning could help solve both personal and social problems with which you are familiar.
4. Research and write an expository essay about water as a symbol in the world's cultures, religions, myths and literature. Apply your insights to this film and illuminate the symbolic value water holds in terms of the characters and how they change in the story.
5. There are a number of ironic situations and comments in the film. Select three from the following list and write an essay in which you explain how the particular irony leads to an important lesson in itself. Be persuasive in your responses as if you may would need to defend challenges to your ideas.
(2) The ashram is supposed to be a place of religious purity where the occupants can be closer to god, yet it prostitutes its young girls. Although expected to devote their lives to prayer, widows are often driven to prostitution because of society's neglect.
(3) When Kalyani gives her savings (obviously tips from her clients) for the cremation of the old widow, Madhumati comments: "What a Goddess!"
(4) When Chuyia asks where the houses for the widowed men are, the widows react in horror, asking god to preserve their men from such a terrible fate. The irony is that the widows should be reacting to their own fate with the same horror, but they do not.
(5) Narayan's mother wanted him to marry early and to have a daughter Chuyia's age by the time he meets Kalyani. At the end of the movie, a few days later, Narayan has Chuyia to take care of as a daughter.
(6) Narayan and his friend Rabindra are talking about Romeo and Juliet, with its famous balcony scene, as Kalyani is being taken up the steps to a sort of balcony for a sexual encounter with Rabindra's father.
(7) Madhumati, the leader of the ashram, who should be an example of faith and goodness to the other widows, is fat, takes drugs, has a bed and a mirror, and functions as a madam.
(8) The character of Gulabi, the instrument of corruption, is the one who introduces the audience to Gandhi's positions of ethics and purity.
For additional assignments, click here.
Can you think of any American leader who has done as much for his country and for the world as Mahatma Gandhi?
Click here for this and three other history discussion questions.
Discussion questions on character development,subplot and foils are contained in the Supplemental Materials.
Spread the GOOD NEWS about
© TeachWithMovies.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Note that unless otherwise indicated any quotations attributed to a source, photographs, illustrations, maps, diagrams or paintings were copied from public domain sources or are included based upon the "fair use" doctrine. No claim to copyright is made as to those items. DVD or VHS covers are in the public domain. TeachWithMovies.org®, TeachWithMovies.com®, Talking and Playing with Movies, and the pencil and filmstrip logo are trademarks of TeachWithMovies.com, Inc.