A father encourages his daughter to marry a dying man in order to inherit his wealth in this social drama set in 1830s India. She is expected to practice the ancient Hindu ritual known as suttee in which the widow throws herself on the burning funeral pyre of her late husband. The British colonial government has outlawed the practice, and an untouchable tries to persuade the woman to abandon the idea that will lead to her death. The dying man often comes to life to display his jealousy as people prepare for his funeral on the banks of the Ganges River.
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