November 27, 2007

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag - Journey of a Woman, by Pradeep Sarker

A fascinating blend of musical, melodrama and feminist fairy tale, “Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” shows Bollywood’s moral universe in transition. The film follows the fortunes of Badki and Chutki , sisters from a genteel Benares family with money problems and predatory relatives. When Badki leaves to find work in Bombay, “Laaga” really takes off. There, Badki — with no diploma and no skills — becomes Natasha: a high-priced prostitute. The movie isn’t coy about this. “I’ve fallen from grace,” she says. “I can never come back.” Chutki’s story is lighter. M.B.A. in hand, she joins her sister in the city, where she gets a job in advertising. Her first task is to sell Lux soap to the modern Indian woman. And who is that creature? As her boss (and future husband) discovers, Chutki herself — bright, spunky, self-assured — fits the bill. Fallen women are a Bollywood staple. But Chutki won’t allow her sister to be shunned. Instead of keeping the stain a dark secret, Chutki insists on honesty and that the family reintegrate Badki.

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