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Laapataa Ladies - Lovely gem found

Once in a while a movie comes along that's pretty much flawless in every way with nary a misstep nor false note. Getting the right balance and mix of mass media entertainment with a meaningful message without tipping over into either extreme, is tougher than getting the crispness of a dosa just right. One notch either way can make it a chewy cud or a brittle mess. For my 100th review on my site, I am so glad that Laapataa Ladies, (now streaming on Netflix) from Aamir Khan Productions, directed by his ex-wife Kiran Rao, is that rare movie that threads the needle perfectly. At a running time of 2hr 3min, it's also a rarity in today's world of self-indulgent bloated spectacles where it seems the director and producer spent money on everything except an editor.

The story, set in the year 2001, begins with a young freshly married couple, Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastav) and Phool (Nitanshi Goel) traveling back by train to Deepak's village. In the crowded compartment, there is another couple traveling with their entourage. Both brides are dressed in the similar traditional red sari and both have it draped over their faces in a veil. In the confusion of half sleep and the mad rush of getting down at a small town station, Deepak gets down along with a bride, only to reach home and realize it's not Phool, but the other bride Pushpa (Pratibha Ranta).

The ensuing chaos and missing person search that it initiates is a jumping off point into a deep dive into the infinite complexities, prejudices, mores and morals, and the burdens, known and unknown of our uniquely Indian reeti-rivaaz. Every interaction and line of dialogue is so much more than what it seems on the surface. The words are uttered so matter-of-factly that their breathtaking deeper meaning are a joy to discover. When Deepak's mother Yashoda (Geeta Agrawal Sharma has cornered the current market on endearing moms from OMG2 (2023) to 12th Fail (2023) to Fighter (2024)) prepares a dish that Pushpa appreciates, first she is taken aback that cooking is something to be even appreciated. Next she says she doesn't make that lotus stems dish any more because Deepak and his dad don't like them even though she herself does. When asked why making it just for herself isn't good enough, she is puzzled having never considered that as even an option. From education to making a living, or even earning the smallest amount on their own, to having any kind of agency on any topic, they are so conditioned by "tradition" that the shackles are palpable. The men too have their issues not of gender, but of class and the attitude of servitude to power and keeping a low profile. When Deepak is going to the police station the first time, his father asks him to remove even the most minor of accoutrements of perceived wealth like a watch because as he says "Shikayat bolni hai, haisiyat nahi dikhani hai".

Every actor in the ensemble, whether playing a major or minor role, are amazing to watch. The 3 main protagonists are all newbies yet shockingly accomplished in their acting chops. The local cop, Inspector Shyam Manohar is played by veteran actor of Bhojpuri and Hindi movie fame Ravi Kishan, who is currently having a moment on streaming with his hilarious series set in a Delhi court called Mamla Legal Hai. His paan chewing persona is the toughest to pull off from veering into caricature but the mixture of corruption and jadedness with surprise and discovery that he pulls off is commendable and laugh out loud funny. His reaction at seeing Deepak and Phool's wedding photo is priceless. Durgesh Kumar as his deputy Dubeyji is the perfect straight man foil for his punch lines. Marathi actress Chhaya Kadam plays tea stall owner Manju Maai with a mix of steely resolve and empathy.

US President Teddy Roosevelt had a favorite saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Laapataa Ladies is the cinematic embodiment of that - I guarantee that you will get laapataa in its charms.

May 5, 2024

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2 Kommentare

Very well made Movie..

Good review as well!!

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Mazaa aa gaya Vijay babu! Bahut badhiya review!

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