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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Guldner

Directors I love: Deepa Mehta

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

It takes courage to follow your dreams, not give up, shut out negative thoughts and noise from the world around you and in your head. But for director Deepa Mehta she takes courage to a level that is beyond anything I could even begin to comprehend. Death threats, local government shutdowns, the destruction of her sets, and becoming ostracized from her own country were par for the course  in Uttar Pradesh for Mehta when she began shooting  her film Water (2005) provoked and spearheaded by Hindu fundamentalists who felt Mehta was a threat to patriarchy because she shined a light on Hindu widowhood by showing a realistic view about widowhood in India instead of a touristic, western gaze in domestic mainstream cinema.  Mehta was forced to shut down production and relocate to Sri Lanka to finish a film in secrecy that would go on to earn an Oscar nomination in 2007 and become the highest-grossing Hindi film in America.

Depa Mehta: Strong, fierce, and courageous!

Mehta's elements trilogy Fire(1996), Earth(1998), and  Water(2005) reveal the gender power dynamics in India and how patriarchal customs continue on without much thought or discussion about the self-denial and lack of humanity given to women in lower caste systems. Poverty, the lack of fundamental rights, and a growing disparity between rich and poor are met with patriarchal outcry because it is a reminder of India's shame. Fire looks at the dynamics of two women's loveless marriages and how they find love within each other. One of the first Bollywood films to show a lesbian relationship, upon its premiere film theaters were vandalized and Mehta and her film crew were threatened. Deepa Mehta's trilogy is not pointing fingers, but rather showing a different point of view than the ones relegated to mainstream Bollywood audiences. To show stories from a women's perspective is to engage in a conversation many people may not want to have, but so many women continue to suffer under oppressed conditions that seem so outdated and cruel. Without Deepa Mehta's courage and conviction to continue her work under immense pressure women in India would never have the chance to see their stories change. Supporting women's stories matters, it changes our worldview and gives women living in inhumane deplorable conditions the focus to create positive change and much-needed hope.

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