Thursday, October 25, 2007

Daag....Achche Hai!

Many things may have gone wrong for Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, but astonishingly, the least to blame here is the film itself.I say this because the movie suffers primarily due a God –awful, misleading title, which actually works contradictory to the film’s interests in every sense of the word. Now, this is unfortunate because a perfectly plausible, fast-paced film.
Not only does the title have a regressive ring to it, the promos made it worse by making it seem like an outdated family saga, about a ‘journey of a woe-man’, which no one was interested to see.Additionally, a title like Laaga Chuanri Mein Daag instantly sounds like a woman’s-weepy, with a ‘man bashing’ label all over it. This Kangana, Choodiyan, Dulhan, Ardhangini, Teen Bahuraniya type of titles work like magic for Ekta Kapoor and Balaji but it tends to put off the young urban moviegoer, of both sexes.

Somehow, a title like Vivah doesn’t harm it, because in this instance, the title, theme and treatment aren’t in conflict with each other and importantly, it appeals to the audience it is primarily meant for – the small-town youth in the Hindi heartlands.On the other hand, Laaga..was targeted at a city audience, especially young women. This is where the title plays truant, deceiving its merits and reinforcing ideas of it being regressive.

Laaga’s biggest strength is that it does not try to justify Vibha (Rani Mukerji) turning a high-class escort beyond a point. This seems to be a pet peeve among reviewers (mind you, may not be the audience )who are focused on how she could have tried other means before jumping into prostitution.

Vibha doesn’t opt to be an escort because she has no other option but because, it seems like the most convenient and immediate recourse to her financial troubles back home. Now, even as a woman, I see this as a plausible situation –especially given Vibha’s pragmatic 'what’s got-to-be-done-must-be-done’ streak.

In any case, she’s hardly portrayed as a prude in these matters, given that she’s not the least bit judgmental about her neighbourhood courtesan in Benares (Hema Malini). If anything, there’s a glint of fascination in Vibha’s eyes for this world of glamour, where a woman has a fleet of men at her beck and call. I’m not suggesting that this had anything to do with Vibha’s decision later on but subconsciously, this could play a part in the mind of a small town girl, is it not? However misleading the title maybe, the film thankfully does not emphasize on her ‘suffering’ for choosing a ‘certain means’ of earning her bread, butter and then marmalade. Most critics have thrashed the film for this very reason, saying it never really shows Vibha in a reflective mode. The reason here could be because she does not regret her actions beyond a point, though she certainly considers the prospect of a dim future.

No doubt, there is a certain superficiality to the treatment of an escort’s life here, with Vibha losing her virginity as if it were like Cinderella losing her shoe. But this fairy tale appeal is also one of its charms. Personally, I don’t see how an escort, who treats her job as a lucrative one, is any guiltier (if at all) than a man who sleeps around as sport! This is fast becoming a way of life, with women and men in cities willing to make compromises of all these kinds, for career and other reasons.

So what does this whole ‘daag’ thing really amount to anyway? True, there are no stark scenes or any pretence of depth to the narrative but I’m just eternally grateful to Yash Raj for not turning this into a regressive fare. I actually take this over a ‘realistic’ film, which would have most certainly got Vibha to kill herself and Konkona to pick up the threads.
Heartening, in Laaga..., Rani gets to keep both her moolah and her man. So what’s the big deal about a ‘daag’ ?


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