Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Konkana Sen Sharma, Kunal Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan
Storyline: Small town girl goes to big bad Mumbai and becomes an escort.
Bottomline: Sarkar’s sense of feminism goes hanky-panky, with special emphasis on the hanky.
Like the bit when she does not take the money the first time she gets a ‘daag’ on her chunari. She slaps the guy instead. Like the part where she chooses to do it on her terms and in style instead of signing up for Madhur Bhandarkar’s Chandni Bar-girl’s desperation of doing it for pocket change. Like the point that she always has an
exit-route option open, throughout the film.
These touches are the only saving grace of a film that tries hard to be a feminist take on the issue but fails due to one basic flaw: The fact that she goes through all this in an attempt to be the “son” her father wanted and in the end, her exit from this path is guaranteed only by the entry of the son-in-laws, the family’s new male
This ruins everything.
Maybe this is Pradeep Sarkar’s way of telling us that this candy-floss pseudo-feminism is a picture perfect reflection of our times where morality as defined by the rich and the famous differs from the morality of the middle-class. Once you’ve made the jump who cares what others say? Love is all that matters. Perfect for the multiplex-goer sensibility.
It does not squeeze the sentiment enough to dampen your hanky. Nor is it bitter-sweet. At best, it’s a feel-good tragedy.
It’s not an author-backed role for any of the characters, so you are wondering why Jaya Bachchan’s name appears first in the credits. Maybe because the director wanted to keep his promise of writing a role tailor-made for her, he literally just keeps her going at the sewing machine day and night. You didn’t get the metaphor? Without her putting the stitches on the petticoats, the family’s fortune would be reduced to rags.
Wait, there are more. From the predictable Ganga of the Benaras epitomising the purity of the protagonist to the deteriorating condition of the family (through father’s health) and their ancestral home, literally, to the stack of falling chips to the professional courtesan’s in-your-face assessment of Rani’s innocence, every thing is spelt out that it would be no surprise if the next film from the Yash Raj Banner has arrow-pointers and footnotes explaining the motifs and metaphors employed to make the film artistically richer.
This need to spell out everything probably only emerges because every situation, character and location is bathed in the Yash Raj-banner-sensibility of manufacturing cinema – good-looking people in great looking clothes singing and dancing around in gorgeous locations.
Thanks to the picture perfect cinematography we hardly know that their palatial nest was supposed to be on the verge of ruins as the dialogue suggests.
There’s nothing visually dirty about the job she takes up – we see her get herself a makeover, strut around in the best of clothes, fly business class to Zurich and almost do a Dilwale Dulhaniya all over again. And, we are supposed to feel sorry for her? The sensibility demanded of the screenplay is the biggest casualty of the Yash Raj Films stylization.
Konkana’s chirpiness borders on annoying but blame that on the dumb thing she plays. Rani has a cakewalk of a role that demands no more than her Mona Lisa smile and she ‘sleeps’ through it, not sure what to do in the bedroom scenes.
The film is so old-school that it is refreshing to see Kunal Kapoor improvise with a burger, spilling mayonnaise on his shirt and provide the film its romantic comedy moments. Abhishek Bachchan with all of 15 minutes of screen-time banks on charm and chemistry with his not-so-Babli pair this time.
The only reason it is worth catching on TV is that it takes every single cliché from the genre of the past and juxtaposes it with updated contemporary, modern-day reactions which have become clichés too.
Sample: How the sister comes to know about her ‘job’: Cliché. How she reacts to it: New age cliche. How the family comes to know: Cliché. How they react to it: New-age cliche. How the boy comes to know: Cliché. How he reacts to it: New-age Romantic Comedy cliche.
These sort of twists against the tragedy genre work, but only in a Sooraj Barjatya-kind of a way.