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Laapataa Ladies Film Review: Kiran Rao’s Enchanting Movie Conveys Its Message with Clarity

Women only get lost when they choose to, as they are almost always confined within someone’s line of sight. This is the premise that unfolds in Kiran Rao’s delightful second feature “Laapataa Ladies,” where women find themselves entangled in a jaw-dropping case of bride-swapping in the fictional Nirmal Pradesh.

Just like the setting, the story is entirely imaginative, but Rao’s film, brimming with feminist flair, addresses uncomfortable truths that remain relevant today, just as they were in 2001, the year in which the film is set. The era of early mobile phones and trains stopping at every small station provides a believable backdrop for this gently cutting satire, allowing both girls raised only to become wives and those with slightly more free-thinking perspectives to find their voices.

Rao employs the “ghoonghat” as a double-edged sword in her film, scripted by Biplab Goswami. Newlywed brides Phool Kumari (portrayed by Goel) and Jaya (played by Ranta), their faces concealed under identical red veils drawn tightly down to their chins, find themselves in a tight spot: one ends up stranded at a station, while the other arrives at the wrong ‘sasural’, causing widespread consternation. Phool struggles to recall her husband’s village name (‘it starts with something related to flowers’), while the more educated Jaya equally strives to keep herself concealed, the reasons for which are gradually revealed. Both are lost. Or are they?

The mostly unfamiliar cast is perfectly suited for this type of film, as recognizable stars would have detracted from its essence. Aamir Khan, who also produced the film, playing the ‘dulha’? Absolutely not. Kishan does an excellent job as the upright cop, and I’m relieved he wasn’t shown undergoing a sudden transformation. That would have been far-fetched. Additionally, Geeta Agarwal deserves a fresh role, as she has become typecast as Bollywood’s quintessential mother figure. However, both Goel, exuding flower-like innocence, and the more worldly-wise yet not entirely independent Ranta, who faces the more challenging role, triumph in their performances.

Ziya Khan


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