Sunday, October 28, 2007

Movie review - Laga Chunari Mein Daag (LCMD)

Keeping it too simple

It’s common knowledge that many women across the world unfortunately enter prostitution to earn a livelihood or to pay off a debt hanging over either them or their families, as a measure of last resort. Director Pradeep Sarkar (Parineeta) takes us through a journey of one such girl named Badki (Rani Mukherji). Part of a UP-based family with parents and a kid sister Chutki (Konkona Sen Sharma), they struggle to make ends meet as they are embroiled in an ugly property dispute with the family patriach’s (Anupem Kher) brother and his evil son (Sushant Singh). With money hard to come by (after all how much can mum Jaya Bacchan can make out of stitching clothes and with sister’s education still going on) and hit hard by her father’s admission that “agar beta hota ton aesa naa hota” or something like that, Badki sets sail for Mumbai – the city of dreams, to eek a livelihood.

One thing leads to another and within a span of 10-odd minutes, we find her taking the route of a high-end escort who goes to earn enough to support her family back in her hometown, fight the lawsuit, fund her sister’s education and basically lead a good life. However, all hell breaks loose when Chutki, upon finishing her education and coming to Mumbai to search for a job, finds out the truth.

The movie starts off with a promising theme but soon becomes a whimper. Badki’s transition from a simple and bubbly girl to an escort, albeit through a song and background score sequence, is not convincing. For instance, why would a seemingly looking respectable girlfriend of a sympathetic and good natured neighbour of the host of Badki’s initial stay in Mumbai, convince Badki to become an escort? If the woman takes the pain to teach Badki the walk and the talk of a high-end escort, like learning English and catwalk, etc., why not goad her to become a model? Is prostitution the only solution? LCMD fails to answer this basic, yet potent question as also fails to show this transition as a measure of last resort. If only LCMD had managed to portray this, it would have earned the audience’s sympathy.

Few gaping holes can be noticed in the movie, like how on earth did the evil cousin come to know of what Badki is doing in Mumbai (he also gets her mobile number and calls her when the lady is in Switzerland attending her customer’s conference) and how much she earns per night. As usual, the song and dance sequences make little sense, especially the last one, where suddenly you have a whole bunch of youngsters dancing amidst all the wedding festivities – are they friends of the family, why didn’t we see them earlier, etc – but this is a typical Hindi-film cliché, so no point ranting about it. Also, how come the family owns and lives in such a huge palatial mansion and yet struggle through their days is not very clear.

Finally, the acceptance of the father (Kher) of her daughter’s profession is too simplistically shown. I am not saying the father should not have accepted her daughter or should have abandoned her or something, but the shock of discovering something so traumatic does not get translated onto the screen. For a character that is shown to get a heart-attack upon receiving a legal notice, he does seem to have taken it very well upon discovering what his daughter had to go through to support the family. The shock conveyed by the brilliant actor Tabu in Chandni Bar (a masterpiece revolving around a loosely similar theme) upon realizing that her daughter had entered the dance bar profession to earn enough money to procure a bail for her jailed son was enough to make you cry and shake your guts and conscience.

In the acting department, while Anupem Kher and Jaya Bacchan are barely given the room to move beyond the grieving and struggling parents, Rani Mukherji does her bit well. Though I find it a bit disturbing to see her crying consistently in almost all the roles she takes up these days. Ultimately, it is Konkona Sen Sharma who lights up the screen; her on-screen chemistry with Kunal Kapoor is the most refreshing pair you’ve seen in some time.

KRate: * *

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