Monday, October 15, 2007

Laaga Chunari Main Daag

Funny how something as mercenary as prostitution, always manages to arouse a variety of emotions, especially when it’s the subject of a movie. This is an ok film – its lifted up by certain performances and authentic characterizations but let down by a certain brooding weightiness (thanks to its topic), a plot that becomes increasingly filmy, ‘sobby’ and ends a bit unrealistically, almost with a whimper as none of the expected fireworks materialize.

‘Laaga’ tells the tale of a simple XIIth pass village girl (Rani Mukherjee) who leaves her family in Benares and goes to Mumbai to earn a living due to monetary pressures. When she can’t get a job and the pressure from home to send a money order increases, Rani has to make some choices – to sleep with a guy who promises her a job in return or to return home. The movie then details the repercussions of her choice, including the impact on her parents (Anupam Kher and Jaya Bachchan) and her sister (Konkona Sen).

The Benares part of Rani’s / Konkona’s life was very realistic – each member of the family was well-sketched out. Anupam Kher is a retired professor, clearly a mis-fit in today’s commercial world, a crabby recluse who hates that everything is about money yet flowers when the money orders from Mumbai begin to arrive. Jaya is a behenji home-maker but wears the pants in the family, takes care of the house, the money and sews petticoats to make up for the shortfalls.

Rani is pretty much what you would expect – very good if you’re a fan and ordinary if you’re not. I’m tending more towards the latter camp. I feel she is doing too many similar ‘weepy’ roles and is in danger of becoming typecast. She transitions easily from the village girl to the cosmopolitan mumbaikar, cries a lot, broods a lot but does all of this without any real spark or brilliance.

All the sparks, the bubbliness and energy comes from Konkona who, for me, was the life of the film. Her character, as the tomboyish younger sister, introduced some much needed vibrancy and lighter moments in the film. She studies and joins an advertising agency in Mumbai, blissfully unaware of the choices her sister has made. It doesn’t take her long to make her mark in the firm she works in – and her stint in the ad agency provide some of the more interesting moments in the film.

The music is decent – there are a couple of songs I want to listen to again – including one picturised on Rani as she is making up her mind on which road to travel. I did not like the message though that this movie is sending out, that its easy to achieve success as a high class working girl. For every one girl who achieves her materialistic ambitions, there will probably be thousand failures who rot in the seedy by-lanes of Mumbai or in police lock-ups. I also think there was a gross over simplification of the route to becoming a call-girl and there is a danger that it spawns a few imitations.

This is becoming a rare genre – the emotional family tear-jerker – there was a time when Hindi cinema abounded in such films but now they are mercifully far and few in between. Life is too short to spend weeping or watching others weep.


moksh juneja said...

is it worth watching with your parents and grandmother?? Planning to do so today evening!!

Simone said...

I have to find some of these movies in this part of the world.

And you know...sometimes crying is good for your soul!
Hope you are well and had a safe trip back home.


Unknown said...

went it expected nothing and was surprised...I am not a fan of Rani, but she was looking amost hot in this one...and the chemistry between Abhishek/Rani really contrasts against the lack of the same between Abhishek/Ashrandirai. No songs though and its difficult to sit through watching Konkana future boyfriend eat a hamburger...