I went to see Water amid forecasts of rain and walked in to the theater slightly wet from the drizzle and walked back home fully drenched. I for one, never felt that the movie was happening in Benares (true because it was filmed in far away Sri Lanka). But some of my other American friends seem to have had no problems in believing it was Benares from what they have heard and known about Benares. For me the ghats were the ones that gave away. Apart from the art direction, there were some good performances from Seema Biswas (Shakuntala), Sarala (Chuiya) and Manorama (Madhumathi). Especially Sarla who plays an exuberant child widow, who does not comprehend her widowhood and is waiting to be sent home. Surprisingly Lisa Ray played the doe-eyed Kalyani pretty well.
Wikipedia on Water
Water at imdb.com