There is something very wrong with Yash Raj Films these days. If Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is any indication, they hire the best talent money can buy, a promising director (I haven't seen Parineeta
, but I hear it was well-made), a solid technical team, and then they put twelve monkeys in a room with one typewriter to come up with the plot and screenplay.
Well, does anyone have a better explanation of why Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is such a poorly-written and pre-packaged pap? The way I see this, Chak De
may have been a flash in the pan. I mean, you have a happy family, on the brink of poverty. And then comes the bizarre plot point that hasn't been good cinema since the '70s. Let us back track a bit, though.
So here they are the irrepressible Sahay sisters - the elder Vibhavari (Rani) is the more responsible one, while the younger Shubhavari (Konkona) is the protected innocent sibling. The parents (Jaya Bachchan and Anupam Kher) evidently can't support the family along with the upkeep of the haveli
, though the father insists on gambling on a lottery every day. We also have the evil uncle (Tinu) and his wayward pehelwan
son (Sushant) ready to pounce and get the mansion back into possession.
All of this, by the way, is shown to us to the tune of the song hum to aise hain bhaiyya
, and shot like a stage musical, complete with interjections and dancing extras in the background. The colorful and vibrant 3 minutes of the duration of the song are the only decent bits in the entire film. All your expectations come crashing down as the movie takes the tired and shopworn route of a tale told so many times.
All the characters and the stuff introduced in the song are quickly forgotten, for a rote narrative, which leads us to believe that setting the song in Varanasi was just a gimmick, and the characters mere props. And it all begins in one bizarre moment that is not in sync with the characters, setting, or indeed, reality.
Vibhavari lies to her parents and decides to move to Mumbai to find a job. Why, Pradeep Sarkar, why? Is Mumbai the center of the universe? Why can't a 10th pass girl in Varanasi move to Lucknow, or even Delhi for work? Why does she have to plonk herself on an unsuspecting acquaintance to find the said job?
Logic is swiftly given a brush aside, as Sarkar evidently has way better things to do with his time. Tell a threadbare story, for one. So she doesn't get a job, her helplessness forces her to sleep with a call center boss, and then when she is totally ashamed by all of this, her friends (friends! hah!) encourage her to become a high class escort, in the process teaching her the very skills that she lacked earlier, because of which she didn't get a job.
The mother knows about this, and while clearly enjoying the money, cries a lot, though she never tells her daughter to give it all up. When Vibhavari, now called Natasha, goes to Switzerland (for 'work'), she meets Rohan (Abhishek), who promptly falls in love with her (he says that it is because she recites Hanuman Chalisa). The younger sister, meanwhile, completes her education, moves to Mumbai, and of course finds out what didi
does that has made them so affluent.
I am surprised that she was surprised, really, because with friends and terrible, terrible parents like these, what else does a poor girl do? I suppose Sarkar may have succeeded in one thing here - transporting us back in time for the Sunday evening Doordarshan movie. This film is old, not only in its plot and execution, but also its values and moralities; where all a woman can do, evidently, is prostitution or get married.
Despite the regular Yash Raj sugar coating, the film remains fairly serious and, oh, very very monotonous for its entire running time. So drab plot, check. Ham handed execution, check. What else do we need to make our audience miserable? Bad acting, of course!
Mukherjee gets to bite her teeth into the lead role, and though she does not disappoint, she doesn't rise above her usual weepy, serious self for the most part. There is actually a moment in Jaya Bachchan's soliloquy at the end where the audience laughs - yes, laughs - at her crying. Oh, and the less said about Kher's gilli-gilli
brand acting, the better.
Abhishek's limited screen time was either for free, or the Chopras got ripped off. I couldn't believe him spouting heavy lines with the acting chops of a hard-boiled egg. The assorted supporting cast is alright in places, but where it truly matters - the evil uncle and cousin, for example - it is truly terrible.
The only good thing about the entire exercise is Konkona. Her take on the fun-loving Shubha is neat, fresh, and completely in check. By far the best thing about the film, she elevates her screen presence to such an extent that Rani looks like chewing scenery in front of her. The lone star up there on the rating belongs to her.
This is not just a film that regresses Hindi films a few years backwards, this is a film that pretends to be a women empowerment film, and ends up sending the very worst message - that it is alright for a woman to stoop to prostitution if the family needs money, as, it says, there are no hardships in that life and it all works out in the end. Yeah, right.
This is reverse exploitation cinema. It doesn't talk about a serious topic and exploit its actresses, it exploits the audience. The only fun I had in the entire time I spent at this movie was during the promos in the beginning.