Pradeep Sarkar’s second movie after Parineeta, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag-Journey of a Woman, is the story of Vibhawari Sahay, a simple girl from a small town, who becomes a victim of circumstance and meanders into the world of high-end escorts. Although not an original story, Sarkar manages to introduce a very human element in this age-old story.
The movie opens with a melodious song (Hum to aise hai bhaiyya) that introduces you to the protagonist and her famly; a spunky younger sister, a mother who is the only earning member of the family, a father who has lost his wealth but not his pride, a nasty uncle and cousin. Vibhawari’s family falls on hard times with no source of steady income (except for the money her mother earns by spinning out petticoats and blouses on her sewing machine), a daughter who is yet to complete her education and a legal battle with their uncle and his son over the family property. The song serves as beautiful prologue.
Vibhawari’s desire to support her family, and the aspiration to fulfil her father’s longing for a son, brings her to Mumbai. However her inexperience and lack of an education quickly make her lose hope. In a moment of selflessness, she decides to compromise her morals to get the job her qualifications fail to obtain. When she realises that she’s been used, she breaks down, but soon realises, or rather is made to realise, that the city will show her no pity.
Her willingness to enter the world of high-end escorts springs from her wish to support her family and fill their lives with the happiness they rightly deserve. And so Vibhawari becomes Natasha. The introduction of a love interest and her sister’s arrrival to Mumbai, to pursue her career in advertising begin her journey homeward and bring her back on the path to righteousness.
The performances by all the cast members are phenomenal. Rani as the vulnerable Vibha is excellent. There are scenes in the movie where you feel her emotions and cannot help but shed a tear. Konkona Sen gets her act perfect as the spunky little sister, who shows maturity when called for. The scene where Konkona realises the truth behind her sister’s financial success is testament to hat fact. The confrontation between the siblings is heart-wrenching!
Jaya Bachchan is absolutely natural as the simple mother from a small town, who is worried about the social stigma her elder daughter’s profession might bring upon the family. Bachchan Jr. and Kunal Kapoor, albeit for a small duration on-screen deliver their best.
The music of the movie is just about average with only two or three tunes that are memorable. The title track has a very haunting feel and appears in the movie at a very pivotal point. The opening song sequence is more of a musical number, but is nonetheless hummable and melodious. Another song that had a great tune to it is the wedding song in the end.
Laaga…has several great cinmatic shots of landscapes, especially of the town of Benaras. The cinematography is indeed brilliant.
There are moments in the movie where you might get the feeling that things have been taken for granted, but then dramatic licence can buy you many such getaways. Nonetheless, the superb performances compensate for them.
Both Parineeta and LCMD-JOAW, deal with women who are entrusted with the responsibility of supporting their families, and in both stories, the protagonists are forced to make decisions that are against their better judgement, albeit the only viable option. However, where Parineeta dwelled more on the sacrifice of love, LCMD explores the sacrifice of morals, or is it more a sacrifice of one’s sanctity? Nonetheless, the movie forces you to think twice before you point a finger at another lady of the evening. This is where one would credit the director in succeeding to make the audience think. Kudos to Sarkar for his achievement.