Flashback to 1981. Roll Smita Patil and Deepti Naval into one, throw in some ginger and marinate them to 21st century sensibilities. What you would get is Konkona Sen Sharma. What a performance Konkona throws in! Amazing body language and those eyes tell tales like none else.
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (LCMD) is a movie that is mostly old wine in new bottle. But the bottle is good and gives a fresh lease to the old wine. I would rate the movie at 3/5 and recommend you go see it. It is not great cinema, there are serious logic lapses but what lifts the movie is the performances from its lead characters. I’d rate Konkona as the show stealer, followed by Jaya Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee and Kunal Kapoor. Anupam Kher and Abhishek Bachchan are good but nothing to shout about.
What I liked about the movie is its contemporary no excuses approach to prostitution in sophisticated circles. The helpless female crying has been kept low key with more focus on the journey Rani makes from small town Benaras to big bad Mumbai. Her transition is convincing. One might argue that in this age, there are so many options that a desperate female need not take up the escort girl trade. I disagree because the statistics prove otherwise. And sometimes, you are so overwhelmed by odds that you do things out of ordinary. Which is what Rani does.
My grudge with the director (Pradeep Sarkar) is that he does a poor job of Rani’s life in Benaras. When you do not have money to pay your electricity bill, you do not dress the way Rani and Konkona do. A little more down to Earth wardrobe and settings and one would be convinced of Rani’s inability to get a job. She looks too glamorous to fit the helpless girl image. But set aside that one fact and the rest of its holds good.
The movie is worth watching for a single reason – Konkona Sen Sharma. She infuses amazing life into her character of younger sister who is carefree. Observe her eyes as they roll, glance, smile, frown, love and show guilt. She’s got a full theatre running below those eyebrows! Her sentences are sharp and she delivers them with perfect timing. The scene where she stops Rani from apologising mid-sentence and then herself apologises is a window to the acting powerhouse this lady is.
The director does follow some formula scenes, like the wedding song and that made me cringe. Abhishek though acting his part well, is lost in the shadows. He looked like Abhishek from any other movie and leaves little impression on your mind. Jaya is better but still not in the same league as Konkana. Her telephone scene where she is talking to Rani while collecting some coins (and her senses) is bang on. But other than that she is mostly in the tragic mother holding her head high types.
I like movies with hope and courage in them. Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is one of that kind. All ends well and ends well convincingly. No over the top heroism. Not a single dishum-dishum, no prolonged emotional or heated exchanges. A little muted but well cooked. I would recommend the movie if you wish to enjoy fine acting and come out smiling and feeling hopeful.
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