Laapataa Ladies

Laapataa Ladies
Laapataa Ladies
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More than ten years after her first film Dhobi Ghat (2011), Kiran Rao returns to the director’s chair with a work that hits all the right notes. In Laapataa Ladies, produced by Aamir Khan Productions in association with Kindling Pictures, she dispenses with marquee names and employs three debutants in a lively story of two brides caught in an awful mix-up.

Laapataa Ladies puts hinterland women front and centre and makes its points about gender equality unambiguously. The screenplay is not screechy or shrill. While it may not be very subtle about what it is getting at, it does not overplay its hand either.

Two newly married village girls are caught up in a major crisis that isn’t of their making. In their search for a way out of their troubles, they discover, each in her own way, ways to banish the darkness around them.

The year is 2001. In fictional Nirmal Pradesh, two brides on their way home with their respective husbands get swapped in a passenger train. In the disconcerting but life-altering chaos that follows, they find themselves and never remain the same again.

Phool Kumari (Nitanshi Goel), barely out of her teens, finds herself abandoned at a railway station when her husband Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastav) steps off the train holding the hand of another man’s identically attired and veiled bride (Pratibha Ranta) who is travelling in the same compartment.

When Deepak arrives at his village home with the woman who isn’t his wife, he and his family have to deal with the consequences of the embarrassing slip-up. The bride identifies herself as Pushpa Rani. But where has Phool – the girl Deepak got married to – vanished?

He searches high and low for his missing bride over the next few days with his mates. They lodge a complaint at the local police outpost, but Inspector Shyam Manohar (Ravi Kishan) is one of those who does not jump into action. If anything, he only complicates matters.

Pushpa, on her part, does not seem too concerned that she is not where she should be. She even strikes up a friendship with two women in the family – Deepak’s mother Yashoda (Geeta Agrawal Sharma) and his sister-in-law Poonam (Rachna Gupta). And therein lies a tale with seeds of rebellion.

Phool and Pushpa (both are Hindi words for flower) are temperamentally different. The former is grief-stricken, a bit of a babe in the woods who cannot even recall the name of the village she was headed to. The latter has her wits about her. She capitalises on the freedom inadvertently accorded by a home where she doesn’t belong. Pushpa is a bride without the attendant shackles because she isn’t in the right place.

For poor little Phool, left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar, possibly unsafe place, survival is tough. She finds solace in chirpy Chhotu (Satendra Soni), who does odd jobs for a rail platform tea and snacks kiosk run by feisty Manju Maai (Chhaya Kadam).

Manju Maai, who has thrown out a drunkard husband and a leeching son as if it were nothing, takes Phool under her wing with the aim of teaching her that marriage should not become a millstone round the neck of a girl.

It may seem like an artificial opposition at first glance. But as you look closer, it starts making sense – these two nascent rebellions against grave crises: one by a woman who has reasons; another by an innocent who has no choice. The lost women are two sides of assertion in the face of great danger.

Based on a story by Biplab Goswami, and scripted by Sneha Desai (who has also written dialogues along with Divyanidhi Sharma), Laapataa Ladies is a social satire with strong feminist undertones which forms the basis for this film.

The movie is light on its feet and breezy. That’s why there is no risk of getting drowned in serious problems that it deals with. It just calls for simple rights of those women whose dreams have been robbed after marriage, using simple methods that don’t want to attract too much attention to themselves.

Of course, the film doesn’t say anything revolutionary but it expresses its concerns very powerfully indeed. Laapataa Ladies is far from being heavy-handed; it avoids excess. It says what’s needed and moves on.

The threat to Phool and Pushpa – some part of it comes from the police inspector who wants to cash on Deepak’s distress due to accidental exchange – only exists at peripheries where laapataa ladies live their lives.

Social satire hits home when apart from being emotionally engaging it is also infused with wry humor here and there. Laapataa Ladies is such an ‘issue’ movie; never fails to entertain viewers even once! And though not belittling seriousness surrounding Phool’s as well as Pushpa’s predicament, film still finds hope even in darkest hours. On top of that, it takes good shots at patriarchy; dowry system evils; domestic violence against women in marriage.

Three young leads were perfectly chosen for their roles. Nitanshi Goel effortlessly portrays mixture of vulnerability and hopefulness. Sparsh Shrivastav (Jamtara fame) proves himself as a strong actor while Pratibha Ranta steals whole show!

Among supporting actors there is no doubt that Ravi Kishan – playing role more than just policeman – does fantastic job! Geeta Agrawal Sharma always gives brilliant performances; this time she plays Deepak’s spirited mother who never fails to impress audience with her acting skills once again. As for Chhaya Kadam – what can we say? This actress shines wherever she appears!

Many other minor characters also deserve special mention because regardless how much screen time each one gets they all manage to stand out individually and collectively making themselves noticed by viewers throughout entire movie experience. Rachna Gupta (Deepak’s sister-in-law), Satendra Soni along with Durgesh Kumar playing slow-on-the-uptake constable contribute significantly towards overall success achieved by Laapataa Ladies.

Indeed, there is very little wrong in Laapataa Ladies which could spoil its outcome!

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