Laaga Chunri Main Daag: Simply moving
By www.MovieTalkies.com, 13 October 2007
Pradeep Sarkar’s Laaga Chunri Main Daag reveals the same sensitive touch that the director revealed in his first venture, Parineeta. The only area which seems to be weak here is the story, which is age old and ridden with clichés. But it is Sarkar’s greatness that he manages to use this age-old material, clichés and all, and still manages to deliver a film which tugs at your heart.
The story is one that is often told in Hindi films—the small town girl who comes to the big bad city and is cheated into sleeping with the manager of a call centre on the lure of a job, and then finally slips into the flesh trade, in this case, she becomes a high class escort girl. Badki, or as she is called by her loved ones, is the eldest of two sisters of a middle class family living in Banaras. The two sisters, Badki and Chutki (Konkona Sen Sharma) live a carefree life in Banaras despite all of their family’s problems. Their father has retired, and has anyway lost all hope in life, while the mother stitches petticoats by night to supplement the family’s meagre income. Badki is all too aware of the precarious financial situation of the family. Their house is under litigation and matters reach a head when the father falls sick. Promising to be the son that the father never had, Badki leaves home and heads for Mumbai to find a job. Of course, here one has a quarrel to pick with Sarkar, about why he had to resort to the cliché of women only resorting to the flesh trade anytime they want to make money.
But be that as it may, Badki transforms herself into this high class escort girl and earns in lakhs. The family’s fortunes take a turn for the better. The house is repaired, Chutki manages to finish her education and lands a job at an advertising agency in Mumbai. The father’s health improves, as does his disposition. Chutki also finds a boyfriend in Vivaan (Kunal Kapoor). All is fine till Chutki and Vivaan decide to get married and Chutki stumbles onto her sister’s secret life. The rest of the film is about how Badki gets a second chance in life to find her own happiness, bolstered no less by her sister’s love, acceptance and support and by the support that she receives from the man in her life.
The film truly belongs to the three actresses, Rani Mukherjee, Jaya Bachchan and Konkona Sen Sharma. The men appear as mere appendages in this film, though admittedly very charming ones at that. But it’s the interaction between the sisters or the ones between the mother and her daughters, which really tug at your heart strings.
Despite the clichéd nature of the plot, the film still comes across as a moving story. One of best things about Sarkar’s treatment is the subtle touches that he brings to the film. Nothing is overdone. There is no huge drama happening with over-the-board, high voltage emotions. Everything is as it should be. Of course, his actors have helped tremendously in the manner in which they have executed his vision.
Sarkar’s use of colour, his stunning visual sense, specially the scenes at the ghats of Benaras, is captivating. Benaras and its ghats have been a subject of fascination for many filmmakers, beginning with Satyajit Ray, all of who have brought alive the piquant dichotomy of this city. Everything seems to come full circle at its ghats. While not getting so philosophic about the city, Sarkar has managed to capture its myriad bylanes and the boisterous nature of its ghats as well as their serenity. The film’s music, given by Shantanu Moitra, will probably settle in with time. But the number – Hum To Aise Hain Bhaiyya is easily the most popular and should definitely top the charts.
The film should ideally belong to Rani Mukherjee but Konkona manages to steal the show in most places. The scenes between Konkana and Kunal, easily one of the most charming actors on screen, have a life of their own. They provide a delightful interlude to the emotion laden scenes between Rani and Jaya or Rani herself. Konkona seems to be growing as an actress with every film. In this film, she manages to play a typical Bollywood heroine, dancing, singing and romancing. What is most endearing about her is her naturalness. In front of her, even the effervescent Rani seems slightly jaded. Kunal Kapoor is an apt foil for her. If Konkona comes across as spontaneous on screen, Kunal comes across as extremely charming. This is another actor too, who keeps improving with every film that he does.
Jaya Bachchan too delivers a stellar performance as the stoic mother. Anupam Kher has little to do in his role of the defeated father, but he manages to do full justice to it. One would have loved to see a little more of Abhishek Bachchan, but he is there in what almost seems like a guest appearance. He exudes his own brand of charm and manages to leave an impact in the little bit of screen time that he has. The film is Rani’s in most parts. She essays the role of Badki and then later Natasha, the call girl, as only she can. It is another nuanced performance by this actress.
Sarkar’s film retells an old story but still has the power to captivate. He is a master storyteller and Laaga Chunri Main Daag best exemplifies this.