Seema Biswas, who plays Shakuntula, attended the National School of Drama in India where she was recognized as one of the most promising actresses on the scene at that time. This early recognition was well-founded as she went on to become an award-winning stage actress across the entire country. Her film debut was as the lead in Bandit Queen, which was based on the true story of a female bandit in North India who returned to her village to kill all of the men in retribution for the violence that had been perpetrated on her in the past. This film became an international favourite and she had subsequently been cast in numerous roles in both Bollywood and international cinema. Mehta and Biswas had been attempting to work together in the past but their respective schedules never permitted it until Water.
LISA RAY (Kalyani)
Lisa Ray, who plays Kalyani, was voted by readers of the Times of India as one of the "Top Ten Most Beautiful Women of the Millennium in India", and as a "Star of the Future" at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival for her role in Bollywood/Hollywood. Ray is not only one of the most successful cover models in Asia, but she is also an acclaimed actress.
A self-described gypsy or 'sufi-soul,' Lisa Ray is a product of a mix match of cultures, and globe-trotting experiences. Born and raised in Toronto, her earliest influences were an unusual combination of perogies and fish curry (her mother is Polish, her father is Bengali) which probably contributed to her chameleon-like ability to adapt to any surrounding - a skill which she puts to good use both in her acting and personal life.
While on vacation in India she was approached by a celebrated fashion magazine to model for them. Though she was just finishing high school and had no modelling ambitions, she agreed on a lark. Ray ended up on the cover and was catapulted into a state of instantaneous recognition. Her high-profile career got her noticed by Indian filmmakers but she preferred to branch out into music videos and presenting, rather than follow the conventional route into mainstream Bollywood. Ray has left a memorable body of work behind her in India, whether it is advertisements, videos or television. Some of the stand-outs include the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan video, "Afreen, Afreen", her long-running film review show on Star Movie called "Starbiz" and endorsements of products like L'Oreal, Lakme, Garden Sarees, De Beers Diamonds, Camay and Bombay Dyeing. She is also a guest presenter for BBC's Asian Network.
She kept refusing acting offers until she was offered the lead in the thriller Kasoor (2001) directed by Vikram Bhatt. In the film, Lisa plays Simran, a lawyer who helps get her client acquitted for murder, but then fears for her own life, as he might actually have been guilty. This got her noticed by award-winning Canadian director Deepa Mehta who cast her as the female lead in the cross-over romantic comedy Bollywood/Hollywood (2002). The film had its world premiere at a gala screening at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to be a huge success in Canada and other foreign markets. Not long after, Lisa led in the UK/US co-venture feature film Arrangement, a romantic comedy about arranged Indian marriages which was shot in Austin, Texas.
Realizing that acting was something she wanted to pursue more seriously, Lisa moved to London to concentrate on a serious career in the performing arts. While there, Lisa studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, The London Centre for Theatre Studies, The Desmond Jones school of Physical Theatre, BADA and graduated from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) in 2004 with a post-graduate degree in Acting.
While studying, Ray made a conscious effort not to accept any film offers until she had graduated. However, whilst studying at ALRA, Deepa Mehta called her and made her an offer she simply could not refuse - the lead role of Kalyani in her highly controversial and much anticipated feature Water.
Ray has kept herself busy by playing a cop in the thriller Seeking Fear which was shot in Vancouver, and leading in the American romantic comedy Quarterlife Crisis which was shot in New York. She also led in the festival short It's a Mind Thing.
Lisa Ray is a long-running ambassador for Rado Watches of Switzerland and she finds herself shuttling between her homes in Toronto, London and Mumbai. She loves Indian art and co-curated an art exhibit in Mumbai entitled 'Art Aegis'. Writing is another one of her loves, and she has published articles in various publications throughout India and Asia, including Cosmopolitan, the Times group of publications and the Indian Express.
Ray endeavours to be involved in meaningful cinema and theatre projects. 'What do you expect' she laughs "I've been brought up by a Bengali father, watching the cinema of Satyajit Ray - of course I've been corrupted - I'm an idealist."