Laapataa Ladies review: In all its fun and quirkiness, it's a celebration of Indian womanhood!

Sakshi Sharma
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Laapataa Ladies review

Laapataa Ladies review

Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao's satire is a complete film, as it carries the spirit of Indie cinema with a commercial sensibility while showcasing all the shades of women and their lost identities! 

A woman plays so many roles - maa, beti, bahu but she is hardly ever allowed to be just a human or a woman. Despite many conversations and celebrations of womanhood, because of the shackles of deep-rooted patriarchy, being a woman feels like somewhere being stuck in the middle. These days, we're either too busy being fodder for marketing strategies or fighting a thousand daily battles. Hence, it's far too easy to forget the true essence of being a woman, and that is precisely what Laapataa Ladies remind us of! It is a simple and honest tale of being lost, finding oneself as a woman, and celebrating all shades of being one inside a fun, entertaining film! 

Set in the fictional land of Nimral Pradesh in 2001, when Kaho Na Pyaar Hai has just been released, and Nokia mobile phones are the new shiny thing, Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastava) and Phool (Nitanshi Goel), a newly married couple, take a long route journey via scooter-bus-train to reach Deepak's ancestral home. Coincidentally, given that it was an auspicious day, 4-5 more married couples traveled with them on the train. Amidst the talk of whose suit is better and who got what in dowry, an accident in the night leads to a real tragedy. When Deepak with his new bride reaches home, and the ghoonghat is lifted everyone, including Deepak himself is left stumped to see Pushpa/Jaya (Pratibha Ranta) instead of Phool under it. As the investigation to find the Laapaata (lost) bride ensues with a hilarious Ravi Kishan as Shyam, a corrupt policeman, the whole tragedy-comedy of errors begins.

One of the dialogues early in the film, when a woman wearing a veil stumbles while walking, states that once a ghoonghat comes over a woman, she has to learn to walk facing down rather than facing front. This sets the film's tone as this not-so-understated dialogue symbolizes the ghoonghat with shackles in which we want to bind women and rid them of their identity. The film is riddled with such metaphors; look at the film's title! But this on-the-noose approach is layered with ease and quirkiness and never becomes preachy. A tailor schooling about how a veil hides a woman's identity is stopped mid-track by his burkha-wearing wife serving tea or middle-aged women lamenting about how women can be a saas, bahu, jethani, devrani but never saheli, ends up asking her saas to be her friend. 

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The film also never puts the onus of change or transformation as a one-track mind where women's freedom can only be achieved by hating men. It understands, humanizes, and hopes to have room for improvement in everyone. A man-hater, age-old, cynic woman owning a tea stall changes her heart after seeing Phool's coming-of-age tale. Phool realizes her female potential because of Manju Mai and the misfits, which she was never told of (because women will realize there is no need for men to complete them). However, she still chooses to stay with her husband and be this bold, entrepreneurial woman.

Compared to Phool's naive innocence, Pushpa's fierceness gets her a survivor arc where she fights for herself and every woman around her. But in the wake of fighting she never forgets to care especially when her own wants are ruining someone else's life. And the earnestness of Deepak, who diligently looks for his lost wife and misses her, forms an emotional love story where he is willing to accept her even after four days of not knowing what might have happened to her, a rare phenomenon of men in Indian society. Apart from this fresh approach and the entire cast (so many new faces), who have done a tremendous job, the simplicity and rootedness of this film will have your heart! 

This film, a perfect blend of mass commercial palpability of a masala entertainer and independent cinema aesthetic of minimalism, has much to say. Why can't women cook their favorite food for themselves even when no men want to eat it? Why can't they believe in their own god-gifted artistic talents? Why can't they study further after reaching a certain marritable age? Why don't they utilize cooking as a business venture and invest in themselves? It says this all via borrowing a chapter from Hrishikesh Muherjee's films, as in Laapataa Ladies; the situational comedy makes this film a complete package where entertainment makes it easy for these hard-hitting messages to come across. After all, a husband losing his wife and, on top of it, abducting someone else's is more comical than an emotional tragedy. But a ghoonghat (a tradition) that becomes the source of all this confusion also transforms into an awakening. 

It is highly commendable of Kiran Rao and her entire team to understand the need of the hour and place the film back in the era while sticking to an old-school filmmaking form for much of its commentary to flow easily. For me, the biggest lesson was that how despite of being highly predictable it still managed to throw me off. It's not that by the end I wasn't expecting Pushpa's secret to be less heartbreaking or Shyam's conscience to have its limit, but living in a world full of distrust somehow made me doubt them. And watching Phool casually forgetting to put her ghoonghat again, I realized how much I needed this simple, honest, and immensely hopeful story to believe! 

Laapataa Ladies is currently in theatres! 

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Aamir Khan Kiran Rao Laapataa Ladies