A widow with nothing to lose seduces her friend’s husband in colonial 19th century Bengali society. This is the storyline of a novel written by Rabindranath Tagore called Chokher Bali(Grain of Sand). The book was made into a movie and the dangerous widow, Binodini, was played by none other than the lovely Aishwarya Rai, Miss World, and considered a rising star internationally, according to Time magazine.
Though the movie makes crucial departures from the book which the author could not have done due to early Victorian period that it was written in, yet the movie remained true to the theme of exploring a frustrated woman’s psyche that deliberately goes down the road of self-destruction hurting the very people who love her.
Binodini is a young widow who is brought back to Calcutta by her mother’s best friend from an obscure village and she quickly befriends the daughter in law. As time passes she uses her beauty and wit to seduce the man of the house (Mahendra). But once he is ensnared in her web she treats him with utmost disdain.
Having conquered the heart of a man she turns her affection towards his friend Bihari; man of noble character and integrity whose philanthropic spirit and calm attitude seem a direct contrast to Mahendra's self-absorbed and churlish personality.
Knowing that her affections would not be reciprocated by the elusive Bihari and having been thrown out of the house by Mahendra's mother on account of her ruining Mahendra's marriage, Binodini returns to her village a frustrated widow with a craving for riches that she had grown accustomed to while living in Calcutta.
Bewitched by her beauty and vivacious personality Mahendra leaves his docile wife and ill mother behind and follows Binodini around as she journeys through northern India. Blinded by insatiable desires he stalks her every step hoping and praying for a moment when she would weaken and let him seduce her.
Binodini, however treats him more like a piggy bank sponsoring her trips as she searches for Bihari and remains aloof to his amorous gestures, making him more obssessive in his desire to posess her.
Ashalata is the naïve wife who finally grows into a self-assured woman due to the tragedy the falls on her. Newly married she merely lives to please her husband and having lead a sheltered life falls prey to Binodini’s false gestures towards friendship.
Once her husband leaves her for another woman, she shows inner strength to rise beyond her own sufferings and looks after her grief stricken mother-in-law and earns respect not only in the eyes of her mother-in-law but also the servants.