Sati (1989) - full transcript

Close to the holy River Ganga, an ancient tree provides shelter and comfort to Uma, a mute, orphan, Brahmin girl. Treated like a drudge by her cruel aunt, Uma is also cursed by a horoscope that portends widowhood. This might not be such a bad thing as this is 1828 and it will be next year before the British outlaw the religiously enforced burning of widows on their husbands' funeral pyres ("sati/suttee"). However, the priest thinks it a sin that a girl over the age of puberty is not married and tradition has it that a younger member of the family cannot marry before an older one. A solution is found: Uma is married to the tree. When she becomes pregnant (the victim of an assault by the local schoolteacher) not even the superstitious villagers believe that the tree is the father and Uma is ostracised for having been unfaithful to her "husband". Sent to live in the cowshed, Uma is forced to shelter in her tree when the cowshed is blown away during a violent storm. Lightning blasts the tree and in the morning Uma is found dead amongst the shattered branches and stumps. To the wonderment and consternation of all the onlookers, this most despised member of society has blood on her forehead resembling the vermillion that a groom puts on his bride whilst the manner of her death resembles that of an exulted sati.

Glory to the Suttee!
Hail Suttee Hail!

She's got courage!
Hasn't made a sound

It's the opium.
She's drugged.

Gangacharafls niece had a
lucky escape!

She was about to marry
our corpse!

But how many of them
burn nowadays?

We're having a
Suttee after ages!

And that's only because
Major Sleeman wasn't around..

...when they went
for permission

They say that British
will ban it soon

Don't speak like atheist!

When has law ever ruled

If a pious woman
wants to become a Suttee"

...there is no force
that can stop her!

Chant with me
Hail Suttee Hail!

O ye faithful

Ascend without tears
the pyre

For she who joins
her lord in death

Earns the same
right to heaven

As the Holiest
of elibates

And earns the same
number of years in Heaven

As there are hairs
upon the human body

And like a
snake charmer

Draws her lord out
from the pits of Hell!



Shabana Azrni

Arun Bandopadhya

Kali Bandopadhya, Pradip
Mukhopadhya, Anndam Ganguli

Shakuntala Barua, Ratna Ghoshal,
Ketaki Dutta, Menaka Das.

Ajit Bandhopadhya, Bimal Dev,
Manu Mukhopadhya.

Pie-recording: Satyen Chatterji,
Balaram Barui

Kartik Basu

Shaktipada Ray

Music: Chidananda Dasgupta,
Chandan Raichaudhri

Ashok Mehta

Story, Screenplay:Aparna Sen,
Arun Bandopadhya

Executive Producer: Ravi Malik,
Debasis Majumdar

Producer: National Film
Development Corporation Ltd.,

Aparna Sen

Just see if...

The stove has
only just been lit

When will the
cow be milked?

Are the children to have
some breakfast...

...or should they
just starve?

Talk of married bliss!

Came here as bride at nine. Have
I had a moment's peace since?

To top it all
there is this girl

She could not
get a groom in time

You'll die
an old maid!


Want to play
marbles today?

You stole auntie's bangles.
I saw you

If you play,
I won't tell Grandma

Just look at her
brandishing that broom!

Want to sweep
me out too?

I say this for your own good.
Get up early...

and finish
the chores

If you eat
so late everyday... will fall sick,
Who will look after you then?

Hello Nabin.
Come and sit down

You have come
after a long time

He's too good for
the likes of us!

Will you write a
letter home for me?

I will

Isn't that Nabin?
I knew from his voice

How have you been?
Very well

We were so anxious.
You live all by yourself

Wondered if you were ill.
Time you brought your wife here

How long will you keep
her at her father's place?

You think, she will leave
her rich father and come here?

Well. She's an only child
and a city girl too

Ah! Here is Hari!

Hello Nabin!
Any news?

News" well, I met
the matchmaker yesterday

So? What did he say? Did the
groom's family like Shashi?

Well.. Yes"

What are you doing here?
Go inside at once!


Until Umi marries...
We have tried enough!

Tell me,
who will marry a mute?

And with a horoscope
like hers!

Indicates widowhood

How much do they want
for Shashi?

That's the hitch
Now that Uma's marriage is off..

"The groom's family
have a lot to say...

"She is too old already"
"The village will boycott us"

And so on..
The usual excuses

in other words"

More money! Even that
could have been arranged

Just this morning
Mitter was talking...

"about a medium caste
Brahmin girl down town

Her father will pay well
for a high-caste groom

Kali has always been so
involved with his music

He's had no time
for marriage!

If he could only be persuaded
to marry soon... might help the
family finances

Collections are not so good
from my in-laws anymore

Well.. the problem is Uma again
Not marrying in time!

Naturally! Family honour is
important to those who've money

What is family honour
in the face of love?

I have tossed it aside to
keep my tryst with Krishna

Can this wooden gate
hold me back?

I have crossed
an ocean of pride.. keep my tryst
with my beloved

Can this streamlet
put me out of my depths?

Stop it Kali!

I fear anything
could happen at his age!

He is too trail to go
collecting dues from in-laws!

Now our two sons
are our only hope

Please, Mother!
Don't include me..

Look to your older son!
He should marry again"

How about it, brother?
You're an old hand at it!

Be quiet,
you impudent boy!

Show me another
high-caste boy...

...sitting unmarried
like you!

You will die
bemoaning your fate

O, Radha!
Calling in vain upon Krishna

What shall we do Nabin?
What can we do?

She was born

Her mother died just
after her birth!

The groom died at the
mention of marriage

Just a few more days!
The old fool could have

...taken her to the
pyre with him

The lovely young bride!

How piously she burned with

And you?

You could've a glorious death

To think we could have had a
suttee in the family

The honour of it would have
got a good groom for Shashi

Just our luck!

The lustre of your
beauty will soon fade

Your life will be
at stake

O Radha you will
perish soon a fear

Calling out in vain
upon Lord Krishna

O Radha you will
perish soon in grief.."

Who's there?

Is this Gangacharan -
Chattopadhyefs house?



Yesterday his wife Nistarini Devi
of Kailashpur died

Who is it?

What do you want?

Sir.. my mother
died yesterday

Who was your mother?

Nistarini Devi of Kailashpur, Sir..


Kailashpun. here it is-

Phanibhushan Mukhopadhyefs
youngest daughter...

Nistarini Dev|

Date of wedding -
16th February, 1808...

Are you Patal then?

Why, don't sit there!

Come, my dear
have a wash first

Umi, bring some water

Poor child

What a distance to walk!

You look quite exhausted

Have you eaten?

Can't eat after sunset during
evening! Have some fruits--

Tomorrow I will arrange
your ritual meal

Can you cook yourself?

What happened to Mother?



I've got your guavas!

I've taken your mangoes
I won't give you

You witch!
Wait till I tell Grandma!

She'll teach you to eat fruits!
You beast!

Just see what she's done!

Drawn blood
with her teeth!

Poor boy!
His hand is quite blue!

Wait till she gets home!
We'll see the end of this!

Serves you right for
fighting with your aunt!

You be quiet

There's a limit to

It's just my kindness
that I keep forgiving her

Anyone else would have
thrown her out by now

Poor child! Does it hurt?
Let me massage it for you-

There she is!

You little beast!

I'll break your
bones today

How dare you bite
your little nephew!

His hand is
still blue!

If only you knew
what else she's done!

What else?
Tell me!

She stole Aunty's bangles.
I saw her!


Did you hear that?

What shall I do with
this thief?

She's been trouble
ever since she was born!

I'll teach you to steal,
you little thief!

Where are those guavas?
Have you hidden them?

Here Gopal! Take them

Greedy pig!
I'll show you!

Get out!
No food for you today!

Don't interfere

Will you go?
Or shall I throw you out?

Good bye.

I'm leaving

Our Arithmetic teacher

"suggested a way out

A Way out?

Yes, Sir

He suggested"

...a ritual marriage with
a tree for now...

...just to get rid of
her unmarried status

Shashi's marriage is
stuck just for this

After that is over
-No. No!

When Laxmi died, she left
her daughter in my care...

"She has no one
in the world"

Laxmi had said"

"look after her"

Look after her!

You mean just talk!

Your sister died
leaving a 3 month's baby

It was I who fed
and clothed her...

"and cleaned up
her mess!

But can I help it
if she's mute?

It's a waste of money
paying her dowry!

And every year, the groom
will keep coming for his dues

Do you think any family
will take her home?

Any time of day
she's playing by the river!

Or roaming about
stealing fruits!

Tell me, does a housewife
behave like that?

Or do you think Umi
can be tamed into one?

No, this is a
blessing in disguise

This way at least
she will be free.

As she has always been

That is true

And it's no trouble

Doesn't Umi spend hours
by a tree near the river?

That could be the groom

What do you say, Father?

Shall we consult

And see what he
has to say?

Madhav Bachaspati?

If you wish...

I don't approve...

After all...

...a human being
wedded to a tree?

What do you say, Nabin?

Don't start again!
link that half witted child...

Can you tell the difference?


Anarchy is everywhere!

In Calcutta that
atheist Ram Mohan...

"is ruining our society
with his new fangled ideas!

They say the British
will abolish Suttee soon?

It's all
Ram “Johan's work!

And who will protect the
widows after that?

Ram Mohan,
I suppose?

What is the definition
of Suttee?


"A wife who grieves in
her husband's sorrow"

"rejoices in his
hour of joy...

"is pale and sickly
in his absence

And joins him
gladly at death

Such a wife
is a Suttee

But... the hands of foreigners
this holy land... being reduced
whore house!

A dark future
for Hindus!

I predict a
dark, gloomy future!

A moment has arrived
for all Hindus to arise...

...and save our religion
from ruin!

Holy Scriptures

...that keeping a daughter
unmarried after puberty" a grevious sin!

You are sinning
gravely Gangacharan!

Her horoscope clearly
indicates widowhood..

Hmm! .. Mars is
in the eighth...

In such a case.

Marriage to a tree
is called for

Do not hesitate,

This is just a ritual
If widowhood is indicated...

...marriage with a tree
will nullify that

She may then remarry
if a groom can be found

No harm
in that

Exactly what Pandit Haridhan
said to our schoolmaster here.

Go and inform

Not to ruin his own
daughter's marriage prospects

Marry her to
a tree for the time being

If she is lucky
she may get a man later

Don't be so upset

Marriage to a tree is an
accepted social custom

Trees like Banyan
or Aswatha

Are after all symbols
of Lord Narayana!

Therefore society cannot
accuse you of neglecting...

...your orphan niece...

The kurchi flower
blossoms too soon

Our daughter must leave
for her husband's home

Our hearts are heavy
with weeping

Her father weeps on his
way to the market

Her mother weeps on the
way to the shore

All he hears is the noise
of our dear ones weeping

For they shall
see her no more

Her father has
a mansion

The groom has a
hut in the woods

What did her father
see in this groom?

Alas, what did her
father see?

Your destiny is
black, my child

Your destiny is bad

Your father has sealed your
fate with your groom

Your fate has been
sealed with your groom

Repeat after me...

Now the vermillion paste...

...must be smeared
on the tree

It's .. very rough

You can smear it now

Bring the


Will you permit me
to ask one question?


You are a
great scholar.

...yet you decided
according to custom...

Do the scriptures

"marriage between
a tree and a human?

That pumpkin there

How much?

Take it sire!
It is very fresh!

The biggest
of my crop!

I'll make it
cheap for you..

Only ten cowries

What! Ten cowries for
one pumpkin?

It is plain

Sir, if you people
start complaining...

how can we survive?

There's the matchmaker!

But you left it
too late!

Brides fathers are always
in a hurry

I fixed this one up..

"With Mukherjee's son
in Harinarayanpur

What shall we do?

You've put me
in a spot!

Rich medium-caste
brides are rare...

But yes

If a high-caste
girl will do...

...I can get you one

Medium-caste families
pay more...

...and this is Kali's
first marriage...

Oh? He has not taken
the plunge yet?

Keep him aside!

He's a prize catch!

I'll find him a
rich bride!


What about the boy
for my sister?

I've held on to him

Just arrange for the
dowry money

That's the hitch!

Try to find us
a bride...

"who will bring some dowry
at least".

Either Kali or his brother
must marry to...

Got it!

This is March -
I'll arrange it by May!

Well, Haricharan?

Want to tie
the knot again?


Come here

Open that box

You will find a
small box inside

Found it?

Bring it here
Wait! Sit down

These belonged to
your mother

I had kept them
for your trousser

But now...

Here..keep them.

Come on!

What is the matter?

Of course...

Look out!




It's over.
You can come in

A QM again'.!

Where are you going my son?

To fetch you a slave,

You have my blessings

May the new bride bring
prosperity and male children

We should start now
Yes, my sons

God be with you

So they have left.
Haricharan and Kalicharan?


Trying to make trouble
with that knight!

Fancying yourself
a Grand Master, eh?

There! Check!

I believe Haricharan is
bringing his bride home?

What's up, schoolmaster?

A high caste Brahmin
and poor too

One is alive, suddenly
another wife?

It's not a permanent

This one will go back
after three months

They won't bring her again
- Really?

That was the agreement

Her father's rich

paid well for her too

...but on one condition... one should say "She's never
seen her husband's home!

I see

Will you take all night?


Now try and save your rook!

Mother, a female!


Oh, she's delivered!

When did it happen?

Au nty!

What's all this?

Who's that? Nabin?

It was born this morning

A female!
God has been kind at last

Why, what have you brought?

So, you had been
to the market?

You do so much for us!

That's alright

You, how can I refuse?

Both the boys are away.
You take their place...

...just like another son!

You were going
to fetch your wife

When are you leaving?

I will, once your sons are back

Oh dear!
It looks like a storm!

Any moment now!
I'd better go...

I'll drop in after
school tomorrow

It's started!

Quick! Get the
clothes off the line!

There go my pickles!
Soaked though

Nabin! You're getting wet
Come up here

No. no. I must be off now

Wait! Umi!
Get the umbrella! Quick!

Oh dear me!

Damn! Can't see a thing!

Umi! Get a lamp
from the kitchen

You'll find it
on the shelf

Shut the door!
The flame will go out!

Keep it on that shelf,

Why are you standing
there like a statue?

Oh dear! You're soaked through
like a scarecrow!

Wait, dry yourself
Before you go

Take this

Still staring?
Dry yourself quickly!

Can't manage by yourself?

Shall I do it for you?

Come, I'll do it

Don't be frightened!


Feeling cold?

Come and sit on the bed

Lie down

Don't say a word to anyone!

How can you?
God preferred them silent!

Hey schoolmaster!
Are you home?

Have a about our round of

It's Mr. Dutta!
Let go of me!

Wait a minute, Mr. Dutta

Let go of me

There's no one about
Go through the back door!

Coming Mr. Dutta!

Hurry up!

Went asleep, Did you?

Just dozed of a bit

Come in

When the rain started,
allow schoolmaster...

...I said to myself
There goes our game!

Then, when it let up
a bit..

...I thought, today
I must beat Nabini

Chess is really
intoxicating, you know

Obviously" since you
braved such foul weather!



Aunty! We've come to
see the new bride

Why have you
fallen behind...

"with the torch?

It's so dark here!

Got the firewood?

Ah! You've come!

Why this delay?

What a journey!

When did you arrive?

This afternoon.
I had such a back ache...

...after that tiresome boat trip!
I had to stretch a little

Just hold this for me

God bless you, my dear.
May you be outlived... your husband

Why all this, dear?

It's nothing, Aunty

I thought, they don't get
anything decent... that awful hole.
Let me take some"

...fancy sweets from Calcutta.
Where's the new bride?

In there, come. -Wasn't that the
elder one's room

...She had to give it to the
newly weds

Sabitri and the children
have moved in with me

What to do? Such shortage of
space and so many people!

Take this post of sweets-

Ah! Here's our sister!

How awful you look!

Circles under your eyes! So pale
and sickly! Have you been ill?

We'll come and chat later.
Let me just meet the new bride

Hmm.. the bracelets are not
so bad

But taking of bangles, not better
with my friends wedding pair

A double cable! So attractive!

I've borrowed the pattern
from her

Other has promised to have eight
pairs made for me!

Of course, I have these already.
But I am tired of them

Is that the new baby?
"Poor Sabitri!"

I said to my mother
as soon as I heard-

"A daughter again this year!
What a shame!"

And they're not so well off

Getting each one married is
such a drain on the family!

Are you going to live here from
now on.- Me? Are you crazy?

No servants! No proper house!

I am going back next week!

Besides, my Aunt is coming from
Benaras to visit us in Calcutta

We'll all go by palanquins
to bathe in the Ganges

Have you ever seen the Ganges,
Ashpa,the big Ganges in Calcutta

The East India Company's huge
ships, how grand they look!

With those pipe like things on
top and black smoke coming out!

We watch everyday from our
terrace, you see! What fun it is!

You know where the cemented
strand by the Ganges?

Every evening we see Memsahibs
there in their gowns...

Strolling with their parasols and
logs arm-in-arm with the Sahibs

And here? There's nothing!
I hadn't wanted to come...

...but father said it wouldn't
ok nice and people would talk.

Um“ The firewood'.!

Made him promise before coming.
"I won't stay more than a week"

"You must not insist then!"

Doesn't your husband get angry?

He should be glad I came at all!

Now promise that you won't
tell anyone

Today my back and my feet
ached so much

...after that boat ride. I made
him massage them for me

Feet too!

Um“ Um“ Here she is'.!

Avesdropping here instead of
finishing your work!

Didn't I ask you to
get me some firewood?

So busy listening.
she's lost all sense of time!

It will take hours to light
the stove again!

And I had so hoped to make
be rich pudding for Nabin's wife!

Managed to ruin my plans,
haven't you?

Must you always pry, and nose
sound? Pick up the wood at once

Goodness! Look how
she's defying me!

What! Hitting back!

The cheek of it!

Good gracious!
What will she do next?

Isn't that your deaf-mute

Just mute,
She can hear alright!

You've come?

Come in


Oh, no!

It happens all the time
in the high caste families

Did you find out
who the man is?

No.. She can't

It's just as well

Go digging for a worm and
you'll rake up a snake

Might never know who
the culprit may

What's the point in
knowing, anyway?

Does any bastard have the guts
to own up?

Hmp! Show me one real man
in this entire village"

...and I'll thank you for it!

Here see this root?

Grind it and mix it
with this medicine paste

Then, in the dead of night,
with your hair loose...

Take Peerbabefs name
and give it to her

At the most will take two days

Here take it

What is the matter?
You're not afraid?

Good Lord, I've handled so many
cases! In such big families too!

This is not the first time!

Not a soul will know!


Do you have a choice now.
my ladies...

"that you stop to consider?

Did you think twice when
marrying that woman to a tree?

It it had been a man,
you could have found excuses...

...saying her husband visited her
late at night..or something like

Now it's too late... start worrying!

Hurry up! I have a long
way to go.

Keep her under close watch

Don't let the children go
near her.

And keep her away from
the kitchen

Once the medicine acts,
everything will be soiled

Well, goodbye now

Remember, once it's all over must make me a
silver armlet!

Here, eat this up

Go on!

Take your bedding and
sleep in the cowshed

What are you waiting for?

Keep it there!

See here!
Want some?

What's the matter?
Are you ill?

Gopal, I warned you
not to go near her

Where on earth is everyone?


No one has lit the stove!

The cow is bleating herself

I have to see to everything
in my old age!


Come! Oh. come on!


Hurry! Hurry!
Take everything indoors!

Shut the doors, Pushpa!

Good Lord!

The cowshed has collapsed in
just one night's storm!

The jack-fruit tree
has fallen too...

And we slept through it all!

Who untied the cows?

Umi? Where is Umi?

May be she's gone to
fetch water...

See if her pitcher is
in the kitchen

It's here only

Her bed clothes are here too..

Oh! See! When the cowshed
collapsed, she must have"

...slipped into the kitchen & run
off to the river in the morning...

...forgetting her pitcher!

That child will never change!

Let Gopal go and fetch her.
Go, Gopal

What happened?

The witch-doctor's medicine
hasn't worked yet"?

I don't understand it myself.

She had said.
two days at the most.