Water (2005) - Plot Summary Poster

(I) (2005)


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  • A thesis picture. In 1938, Gandhi's party is making inroads in women's rights. Chuyia, a child already married but living with her parents, becomes a widow. By tradition, she is unceremoniously left at a bare and impoverished widows' ashram, beside the Ganges during monsoon season. The ashram's leader pimps out Kalyani, a young and beautiful widow, for household funds. Narayan, a follower of Gandhi, falls in love with her. Can she break with tradition and religious teaching to marry him? The ashram's moral center is Shakuntala, deeply religious but conflicted about her fate. Can she protect Kalyani or Chuyia? Amid all this water, is rebirth possible or does tradition drown all?

  • The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from the highest caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

  • The year is 1938, India is ruled by the British, and it is around this time that Mohandas K. Gandhi has arrived from Africa to begin his tryst with the British, as well as battle the traditions that bind the Hindus. Not yet in her teens, Chuyia is married to a much older and sickly male, who shortly after the marriage, passes away. Chuyia is returned unceremoniously to her parents' house, and from there she is taken to the holy city of Banaras and left in the care of a wide assortment of widows who live at "the widows' house," shunned by the rest of the community. Chuyia believes that her mother will come to take her home. Here she meets several elderly women, including the head of the house, Madhumati; a quiet, confident woman named Shakuntala; and a gorgeous young woman named Kalyani -- all widows. Chuyia does not know that according to Holy Hindu Scriptures she has been destined to live here for the rest of her life, for when a woman's husband dies', she has three options: One, to marry her husband's younger brother, if his family permits; two, to kill herself on his funeral pyre; three, to live a life of celibacy, discipline, and solitude amongst her own kind. A new law in India which permits a widow to re-marry is not popular, and it is these customs and openly welcoming the lower castes that will pit Gandhiji against his very own people, apart from struggling with the British to leave India. Kalyani meets and falls in love with young Narayan, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, who wants to marry her, despite his mother's protests. The question remains, can Kalyani marry the man she loves? Will he still want to marry her when he knows everything about her? And is Chuyia destined to live the rest of her life as a widow among shunned widows?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In 1938, Chuyia (Sarala) a child bride whose husband dies before their union is consummated is relegated to life in an ashram in Varanasi (Benares) for other "unwanted" widows. Their life is ruled over by a venal old woman, Madhumati (Manorama) She pimps the young widows out to wealthy Brahmin gentlemen, whose attentions are considered by society to be a blessing. Another young widow, Kalyani (Lisa Ray) runs away to marry a young lawyer, a devotee of Ghandi (Mohan Jhangiani), until she discovers that his father has been her "client/benefactor." She drowns herself in the Ganges, and the young man disowns his father. Chuyia is abused, then rescued and helped to escape by Shakuntala (Rishma Malik), another of the widows.

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