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Laapataa Ladies Movie Review: Lol

Updated on: 01 March,2024 05:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

The first husband heads off with the wrong wife into the right station. Only to realise this matrimonial error, once he’s already reached home. That’s not all

Laapataa Ladies Movie Review: Lol

A still from Laapataa Ladies

Laapataa Ladies
U/A: Comedy, drama
Dir: Kiran Rao
Cast: Sparsh Shrivastava, Pratibha Ranta, Nitanshi Goel
Rating: 3/5

Literally, on the face of it, the premise of this picture is so preposterous, you might be tempted to dismiss it, within a few minutes into the movie. 
Which is that a bride’s eyes are covered in a ghunghat (veil). Therefore, she can barely look straight; her head down, shrouded in cloth, setting a limit to her field of vision (also, metaphorically). 

There are two such brides, returning from their weddings, with their respective grooms, on a train. The first husband heads off with the wrong wife into the right station. Only to realise this matrimonial error, once he’s already reached home. That’s not all. 

From thereon, the wrong bride so wholly comfortably settles into the wrong husband’s joint family—chilling, chit-chatting, over days—you’d think nobody’s quite bothered by this strangest domestic intrusion. As if that’s the way it was meant to be. 

Is this some sorta pulpy pic on wife-swapping? Oh, hell, no! Loopholes apart, let’s first place Laapataa Ladies, in terms of genre, then. 

I’d go with a feminist comedy, if there’s such a thing; and why should there not be. Or, more likely, a rural romcom in the garb of a kinda thriller, if you may. Or even a romance, down to the station/airport finale. It’s this genre mashup/bender that makes this movie all the more intriguing. 

And, no, it really doesn’t matter if the plot, per se, makes logical sense—they fill up enough holes along the way for a reasonably realistic ride. Which starts with the Great Indian Railway phenomenon called “adjusting” on seats, packing in double the number of people that can fit into a single berth in a compartment. 

Hence, the confusion, once the bums have shifted/interchanged, while the groom returns from the loo. What happens to the bride he left behind? 

She takes off on another journey, albeit in a railway station! The most beautiful lesson she learns is on the importance of being alone—once you master that, none of the world can bother you.

Both the missing ladies are perfect adults. They should technically know their addresses, and move on/out, right away. Why don’t they! Well, that’s the film you must watch, rather than simply reading about it, no?

It’s based on a story by film editor Biplab Goswami. If I’m informed correctly, he turned it into a book first, which later got developed into a screenplay (with 
Sneha Desai, Divyanidhi Sharma). 

It’s set and evidently shot in a village in central India, i.e. Madhya Pradesh—named the fictitious ‘Nirmal Pradesh’, that I guess translates to a ‘soft state’. 
Which would be an accurate description of this film itself, full of a naturally gentle energy, in service of light, slice-of-life comedy—bringing to light the good in almost all of its characters, as they move about their day in a rural hamlet, with its own calming rhythms and beats, despite all the confusion that surrounds them. 
In another world, this setting would have set off a dark art-house drama, more literally on rights and oppressions—likewise, with a corrupt daroga (Ravi Kishan; kicking ass) here, and his dreaded deputies. 

But that era stopped existing, perhaps once even Shyam Benegal made the wonderful Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008). Laapataa Ladies is perhaps even more entertainingly subversive, without making an obvious show of it.

The lead guy (Sparsh Shrivastava) is just such an amiable bloke you wanna warmly hug. As is his missing bride (Nitanshi Goel). The wrong bride (Pratibha Ranta) he’s brought home could be a shady lady; we’re not sure. 

Between these newbie leads—and a carefully assembled ensemble cast, mixing together so effortlessly that you feel they so belong—emerges a believable world, novel enough to draw you in by the minute. 

Think of it as the Amazon series, Panchayat, and how instantly fresh and original that felt for its location, foremost. I was so happy to spot actor Durgesh Kumar (daroga’s deputy) in this movie—the guy, Bhushan, from Panchayat, who delivers the famous line, “Dekh raha hai, Binod?”

How many Indians live in villages? Almost two-third (about 66 per cent)! How many mainstream Hindi films are set in Indian villages? Barely any. And that’s because cinema has always been an urban medium. There have never been permanent theatres in villages. 

That’s also why a detailed PSA (public service announcement) in this movie on sticky-trap as the alternative to pesticides in farming may be lost on its essentially city viewers. Unless the filmmakers host a special screening for the people of ‘Suraj Mukhi’, who will probably fish out a cellphone for their entertainment instead. 
Laapataa Ladies is rightly set in 2001—the plot in the subsequent world of social media and smartphones would further fall flat at the first instance. 

It’s directed by Kiran Rao, who made a dream debut with Dhobi Ghat (2010). In an absolute contrast, that was an ode to the swarming metropolis of Mumbai! This is her second feature. Surely, in the lead-up to this release, she must’ve been asked where she’d gone lapataa herself! 

Well, among the films she produced with Aamir Khan Productions, around the same time as her directorial debut, was Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live (2010)—again, a rare, rural pic, that struck at the heart of news media and poverty-economics, with striking humour. 

Laapataa Ladies similarly hits fine notes on the position of women in society—any society—but does so with such immense empathy, subtlety, and most importantly, comedy, that tends towards LOL (laugh out loud), on multiple occasions—so elegant, looking like a wow! 

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