Production on Deepa Mehta's Water has been halted again in the Indian city of Varanasi following a suicide attempt and further protests by local government.

The controversial film, the third instalment in Mehta's Fire, Earth and Water trilogy, resumed filming last Thursday after India's federal government over-ruled protests by local authorities that it portrayed Varanasi as corrupt. However Mehta was forced to stop work again on Sunday (Feb 6) following further protests that included an attempted suicide. According to Indian press reports, a member of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party tied stones around his waist and jumped into the Ganges River after eating poison. He was rescued and rushed to a hospital.

Hindu activists claim that Mehta's film, which deals with the plight of a young Indian widow, distorts traditional Hindu values. The script supposedly contains lesbian undertones and portrays young widows turning to prostitution in 1930s Varanasi.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh state government has finally made it clear that Mehta's production is not welcome in Varanasi. The administration said it objected to the film's production on the grounds of the law-and-order problems it presented.

Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had previously given the go-ahead to Mehta to resume shooting in Varanasi. The film's producers, Canadian company Flagship International, have already spent $ 0.5 million on the production.