Laaga chunari mein daag – movie review
Some have called Laga Chunari Mein Daag a regressive film. But is it one? Well, there are parts that could send feminist alarm bells ringing…
Look, the story is about a girl called Badki (Rani Mukherjee) who comes from a family which was once very rich. They live in a palatial house which is falling apart. The Father (Anupam Kher) is jobless and his wife (Jaya Bachchan) makes a living sewing clothes. The money isn’t enough…because they aren’t living in a slum. They have to maintain a huge house, pay the rising medical bills (Anupam Kher gets heart attack after heart attack), pay for the court case against a cousin claiming their house and also pay for Badki’s younger sister Chutki’s (Konkana Sen Sharma) education.
So, Badki turns to the flesh trade – becomes a high class escort girl.
That is pretty regressive say some as it sends out the message that the modern Indian woman can do nothing except fall back on prostitution to save the family.
What is she expected to do to then? Work in Macdonalds?
The director, Pradeep Sarkar, has gone out of his way to point out Badki’s lack of education. She has not even passed her tenth grade as the family did not have enough money to educate both the daughters.
And Badki does job-hunt, in a kind of naive desperation…and not surprisingly cannot get a job that suits her, a job that will pay her the thousands she needs. No, not even a call centre will employ her as she cannot speak English. To top it all, this small town girl finds the big bad city confusing, and as a result finds herself quite unable to find something she can do. If anything, this futile hunt for a well paying job sends out a strong message that if you aren’t educated in today’s modern world, and you haven’t learnt a skill, you are nothing.
The reason I do not think that this is regressive film is because it sends out another very strong message…that people who live off a prostitute’s earnings need to be questioned about their attitudes. They take the money willingly enough, but are they equally willing to accept and respect the breadwinner? That’s what the story is all about. And hats off to Sarkar for tackling this subject in such a sensitive manner. Sure, the film was not as hard-hitting or as stunning as his previous film Parineeta, but well, I think in some ways it comes close. It’s the way Sarkar handles relationships…
Sure, it’s a typical Bollywood melodrama, and you might shed copious tears, and the story is rather unbelievable, but what the heck, it is a movie.
As for acting, it’s an absolute treat to watch Konkana Sen Sharma. As Chutki, she is absolutely brilliant! She manages to eclipse Rani Mukherjee and Rani herself acted pretty well. Jaya Bachchan as the mother wasn’t bad either…good actually. Three powerful actresses in one movie, and this is what makes the movie worth a watch.
But Abhishek Bachchan? Give me a break! He is hardly to be seen in the movie! There is another guy (Kunal Kapoor), paired romantically with Konkana, and though he does a fairly decent job he has very little to do too…
Benares itself was very well portrayed cinematically, and the scenes near the Ganga are breathtakingly beautiful.
Some scenes in the movie are amazing. I particularly liked the one which is a kind of turning point in the story, when Badki is about to pass that point of no return. She gets an ‘offer’ which she finds disgusting, and calls up home for support…unfortunately she calls up at the wrong time. Her father has just had an heart attack, and her mother is at home, a grief-stricken, broken woman. Badki pours her heart out, telling her that she wants to come back home…that she has failed. That she cannot be the ‘son’ that they want her to be…but her mother is no state to listen. She is distraught and distracted…and well, after that it becomes too late for Badki.
That point about the parents (mostly the dad) wanting a son is another thing that critics of the movie didn’t like. They thought that taunts about Badki and Chutki being girls were regressive….well, maybe. But that’s the Indian reality for you.
But I wouldn’t actually call laga chunari mein daag (which in English means a stained scarf), a journey of a woman (the movie has been tagged thus). I would call it a story about two girls and a woman. The movie revolves around the relationship of these three strong and proud women, two sisters and a mother. The ‘head’ of the family is shown as weak and spineless.
Sure, there might be some clichés in the movie, and one of them is that prostitutes are victims of circumstances …but hey, it’s a movie. And it’s a movie about a woman who decides to sell her body because of the circumstances….nothing very original here. To some extent the lilting music (for a review of the music you can check this out) and the excellent performances give the movie that extra sheen.
If you are a bollywood fan you’ll like this movie, if you don’t mind a melodramatic tear-jerker that is. A tear-jerker with a happy ending.
If you do go for it, remember to take a hanky along.