Cast: Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Seema Biswas, Sarala Karyawasam
Director: Meera Nair
This is definitely a brilliant movie showcasing India's religious and social practices around the time of Independence along the banks of Ganges. The story is about young and old widows alike who are banned from their regular life and sent to a hostel for widows where they have to spend the rest of their lives away from family, friends and fun.
Little girl Chuyia (Sarala) a widow gets sent to a widow hostel in Varanasi where she is expected to spend the rest of her life. Shakuntala (Seema) takes Sarala under her wing and keeps the young blood from making too many mistakes and offending people. Sarala who does not even understand clearly why she has been sent away from home finds it difficult to conform to the norms of the hostel and keeps getting in the way of the warden more than once.
Kalyani (Lisa) is a beautiful widow who also lives in the same hostel but does a few things differently as she is a breadwinner for the hostel while she sleeps with many powerful men across the ghat. Kalyani is taken by a eunuch pimp who is in liaison with the warden for taking Kalyani across the bank of Ganga. Kalyani is frustrated with the hypocrisy of the system and wants to escape from it.
Chuyia on one of her escapades with Kalyani meets Narayan, a young graduate who has come home for the vacation. Narayan falls in love with Kalyani and wants to marry her. Kalyani with the help of Shakuntala leaves the hostel to marry Narayan. Only half way through to Narayan's house does she realize that Narayan's dad was one of her night time client. Dejected and heart broken Kalyani commits suicide.
What happens to Shakuntala and Chuyia forms the rest of the story...
Very heartrending but I am sure most of it is still in practice in parts of our country. We cannot completely get rid of our social evils but we can always hope for reforms...
Brilliant performance by young Sarala and the rest of the cast too. Wonder why this movie did not make a cut for Oscar...