• July 5, 2013

Hindi Urdu Talkies: Deepa Mehta’s “Water”


Welcome to the first installment of Hindi Urdu Talkies, a new HUF series that uses short scenes from significant Indian films as the setting for some close listening exercises.

Deepa Mehta’s controversial 2005 film Water completed her “elements” trilogy, following Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). Water, set in 1930s Banaras (but filmed in Sri Lanka, after violent protest against the production in Banaras), is a story about the occupants of a widows’ ashram, bound to a life of piety, poverty, and worse. The young widow Kalyani happens to meet Narayan, the son of a wealthy merchant family; he sends her a note asking her to meet him secretly at night on the riverbank. In this section of the film (approx 59:00-1:05), she goes to him and they have their first conversation.

The point of this exercise is to listen out closely to discover exactly how things are said and expressed; and then to recycle parts of these expressions in usage of your own – for example, you could write a new dialogue incorporating elements learned here. The questions below are in English, so that you can encounter the Hindi “innocently”, but your replies should be in Hindi. Before writing out your answers, try speaking the Hindi lines after the actors, following their intonation as closely as possible. Learn Hindi, become a star!

Names: कल्याणी, नारायण, कािलदास.

  1. What does Kalyani say to announce her arrival at the scene?
  2. How is the sense “flowers grow” expressed?
  3. What happens to people who smell the fragrance of Kadamba (कदंब) flowers?
  4. How does Kalyani say she doesn’t know how to read?
  5. How did Kalyani come to know the contents of Narayan’s note?
  6. How does Narayan say “मेघ megh means ‘cloud’ ” ?
  7. What is his definition of “ दूत dūt ”, and what does the definition mean?
  8. What does Narayan say Kalidasa’s poem is about?
  9. How does Kalyani ask Narayan to go on reciting?
  10. What expression is used to say that the clouds look like Krishna?
  11. How does Kalyani ask “How is it possible” that a cloud could listen to spoken words?
  12. And how does Narayan reply?
  13. When Kalyani asks if Narayan is from a merchant’s family, how does he reply?
  14. What course of study has Narayan just completed?
  15. How does he ask her when she became a widow?
  16. And how does she reply?
  17. How does Narayan refer to Kalyani’s late husband?
  18. And why doesn’t she have an answer to his question?
  19. How does Kalyani try to find out whether Narayan is married?
  20. What is Narayan’s father’s opinion about young marriages?
  21. How does Narayan say “If mother had her way…” ?
  22. And how does Kalyani express agreement with her, saying “That’s how it’s done”?
  23. Explaining that times are changing, Narayan mentions two things that are breaking (or giving way): what are they?
  24. What things does Kalyani think shouldn’t change?
  25. How does Narayan express the question of who “decides” between good and bad?
  26. And how does Kalyani show her trust in Narayan’s judgement?