Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's a 'Daag' all right...

Regressive cinema with a capital R is the best way to summarize Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. Coming from the prestigious Yashraj banner and the maker of a gem like Parineeta, it is only fair for one to expect a polished and thoughtful film. Instead we get a hackneyed and misleading waste of time that goes a step further and actually tries to glamorize prostitution, as if it's just another product for perhaps our cricketers to endorse. Personally, I would gladly opt for Om Shanti Om's blatant Maybelline and Pepsi references (Read: Advertising) any day.

Moreover, the film so brutally deceives you. As any innocent and unsuspecting viewer would, you smile as the film's opening reels introduce you to the playful world of two sisters in Banaras, for once shown to be a colorful and inviting city as opposed to its dull and depressing depictions in recent films like Water and Banaras: A Mystical Love Story.

Cut to a few frames later and suddenly Mumbai gets to play the big bad wolf that devoured the elder sister (Rani Mukherjee) for breakfast. In all fairness, she did appear rather plump and thus fair game, so who is to blame here...the hungry wolf or Ms. Mukherjee's personal trainer?

In other words, to save her family from the brink of losing their home to their own scheming relatives, Rani takes off for the City of Dreams to earn the rupees so that her ailing father will give it a rest already about not having a 'breadwinner' son. Of course, when she lands in the city itself she suddenly realizes that there's not much she could do with no degree, zero English skills place to stay. (What ever happened to think before you act?)

Of course, as we know from the previews, she opts to become a high-end call girl instead. So much for the 18 McDonald's branches that now grace the streets of Mumbai...or even the opportunity to clean bathrooms...or pick up trash...oh hell, with looks like hers, she could just pull a Nisha Kothari and start sleeping with Ram Gopal Varma. At least there's a film career to come out of that.

But no, prostitute it is, and what's more is that she is groomed to do so by her "modern, independent" flatmate. After teaching the naive Rani how to apply that liner, walk those heels and flaunt that Manish Malhotra couture, could the roommate not have just pointed Rani in the direction of a modeling agency? In any case, Family Clueless back in Banaras is thrilled that their oldest is somehow raking in the moolah; little do they know that she escorts old, balding men to a suite in the Taj (although Mama dearest, so nicely played by Jaya Bachchan, has a bit of a hunch and chooses to keep mum and drown her woes in ...stitching petticoats).

Of course, Sister No. 2 (Konkona Sen Sharma) turns out to be quite the smarty-pants and lands a great marketing job in the same exact city where her sister leads her clandestine whorish life. Go figure! Somehow, Sister No. 2 also manages to drop the braid and salwar kameez virtually overnight for layers and a power suit. Yeah...right. She also speaks enough English that you wonder why you never heard it before.

To cut a long story short, all's well that ends well. What else is expected when the director decides to pull a Raj Kumar Hirani and have Abhishek Bachchan waltz in as the angelic, do-gooder a la Lage Raho Munnabhai. (In the process, get ready for the most absurd exchange of dialogue you will ever witness in the history of Hindi tell me when you will ever find a man who, upon learning that the woman he so dearly lusts after is actually a prostitute, says: "Until today, I thought I loved you. But after learning this, I love you even more" Good God, Abhishek. Did you not see (or count) the men she slept with? The day such a man exists is the day Salman Khan will get married.

Of course, Konkona is given a far more appealing love angle in the form of Kunal Kapoor, who puts on his best "I wish I was Hrithik Roshan" act and comes up trumps as an endearing and more realistic character.

That Rani, Konkona and Jaya Bachchan play their parts well goes without saying. The three are supremely talented actresses who can pull off virtually anything, but sadly they are undone by the ludicrous concept that surrounds the film.

Yes, prostitution is a huge problem in India (and many other countries at that). It is also true that many girls who enter cities with big hopes are often thrown into it by force, but to show Rani being flown out first-class to Zurich and strutting around in pretty clothing is hardly the face of real prostitution. And for her to get a rishta from a rich and handsome man who knew her for all of 24 hours and decided he would love her regardless of her situation is pure and utter rubbish. To feed that image to young girls and make it an okay "go-to" profession when in need of cash is shameful, to say the least.

The saddest part about the film is that it had all the potential in the world. A quality cast, a capable director (he has to have something if he managed Parineeta, or was that film really in fact ghost directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra?) and a promising beginning...really, the scenes between the mother and two sisters in the first 20 minutes are both lovely and heart-warming. How it turned into such a mess is anyone's guess.

A poor soundtrack doesn't make the proceedings any easier. Barring the introductory song, Hum To Aise Hain Bhaiya, all other tunes are in that all-irritating Hinglish we pray is just a phase that Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya should never have started.

On a side note, Abhishek Bachchan can be as politically correct as he pleases and continue to go on record by saying that his marriage to Aishwarya Rai has caused no friction whatsoever in his equation with favorite co-star Rani Mukherjee, but the painful interactions between the two is perhaps the tale of a failed relationship that wifey Rai clearly disapproves of. Never have Abhishek and Rani looked so void of chemistry.

Verdict? Steer clear of this street corner.


Gamesmaster G9 said...

Oh come on! Don't you know that "giri hui" women of this world can't get out without the help of a dashing noble man? This is Hindi Cinema 101.

Sana Anwar said...

o man. I almost watched this movie with the family. How disastrous would that be? And by disastrous, I mean awkward.
I love Kunal Kapoor, even though I've only seen one movie of his (Rang de Basanti). He was sooo cute in rang de basanti.

Illusions01 said...

had potential, but sucked big time - i didnt even bother finishing it actually. lol i should get around to that though...

Nicki said...

Wow. I've heard nothing but bad reviews for this movie. I agree. It's not the best movie. It did have great potential like Sheebs said. Great review girl! Keep up the good work.

Shreya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shreya said...

your review cracks me up lol..I liked this movie for its flawless acting, but it has several logical gaps like you mentioned :)

sue said...

the relationship between the sisters was portrayed so well, if only dada sarkar could have put in the same effort in the story, this couldve been great