Protesters muddy 'Water,' saying pic insults Gandhi

India distrib says nothing derogatory

NEW DELHI -- Canada-based Indian director Deepa Mehta's "Water," a best foreign-language film nominee in this year's Oscars race, has once again sparked protests in the central Indian city of Varanasi.

According to media reports, demonstrations were held Wednesday in two parts of the city by activists of the Congress party demanding a ban on the movie on the grounds that the film includes derogatory comments about Mahatma Gandhi.

The protests saw activists burning an effigy of Mehta while demanding that "Water" -- which is slated for a Feb. 23 release here -- be banned. Reports indicate that pirated videos of "Water" are already available.

City Youth Congress president Vipul Pathak was quoted as saying: "We strongly condemn Deepa Mehta for derogatory remarks against the father of the nation in the movie."

The activists say that the film shows a eunuch making derogatory remarks against Gandhi. Rajesh Mishra, a member of parliament of the Congress party from Varanasi, said that he has sent a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Minister regarding this matter.

However, in an interview Thursday, Ravi Chopra, managing director of the film's Mumbai-based distribution company, B R Films, said: "There is absolutely nothing in this film that is derogatory to anybody. It is obvious that the people who are protesting haven't seen the film. There is no scene where anybody makes any comments about Gandhi. I think 'Water' is a beautiful film, and the fact that it got a censor certificate without any cuts is proof enough."

Chopra said distribution plans are in the final stages regarding the number of prints to be released across the country.

The film, starring leading Indian actor John Abraham and Canadian-Indian actress Lisa Ray, was supposed to be shot in Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga river, but plans were abandoned when protesters destroyed the film's sets on the first day of shooting. Mehta then moved to Sri Lanka, where the film was completed.