Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao weaves content, comedy and conversations | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao weaves content, comedy and conversations in this simplistic, heartwarming drama

Feb 28, 2024 06:28 PM IST

Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao's new film from the Indian heartland stars Nitanshi Goel, Sparsh Shrivastava, Pratibha Ranta, Ravi Kishan.

Heartland stories are fun and entertaining. More so when they set out to send a strong social message without being in-your-face, and instead are laced with subtle, organic humour. That's the idea behind Kiran Rao's latest directorial venture, Laapataa Ladies that serves a perfect treat, being high on content, comedy and conversations. (Also read: Laapataa Ladies to be considered for Oscars? Kiran Rao clarifies)

Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao's latest film features multiple newcomers.
Laapataa Ladies review: Kiran Rao's latest film features multiple newcomers.

A stirring and heartwarming rural drama, the film is devoid of any melodramatic twists and turns that would take away from its simplicity. It's straightforward and focused at making a point without really hammering on the same thing or being repetitive. The dialect is what catches your attention from the word go, so be fully sincere to absorb the dialogues for that's where the actual fun and comedy lies. Even when it comes to treatment of the story and its execution, Laapataa Ladies never goes over the top. There's enough and more breathing space that allows you to stay hooked and invested in every character.

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The plot

Shot in Madhya Pradesh, Lapataa Ladies in set in rural backdrop of fictional Nirmal Pradesh. The story starts from a second class train compartment where a bunch of newlywed couples are travelling to their respective villages and all brides have their faces covered with long ghoonghats (veils). Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastava), dodging the darkness of the night, and getting off the train in a hurry, grabs his wife's hand and make way for his village.

On a truck, then on a friend's scooter, he is excited to make his new bride meet his family and neighbors. Soon the couple reaches the village and everyone welcomes them saying, 'bahu aa gayi' and a bunch of kids calling her 'chachi'. The moment the mum-in-law tells the new bride to lift her ghooghat because 'yahan sab apne hi hai', the puja ki thali falls on the ground everyone realises, she's not the girl their son got married to. As the realisation dawns upon Deepak that he has brought someone else's wife, Jaya (Pratibha Ranta), he can only think of his actual wife Phool (Nitanshi Goel), who is left behind in the train without any money or address to go to. And then begins a jolly mess.

The only wedding picture that Deepak of Phool, shows her face covered in ghoonghat, and no one can recognise her. Stranded in some other village called Pateela, Phool finds herself absolutely alone and helpless, running from pillar to post trying to find some clue to get to her husband. She encounters several lechers and also some good men who help her out. Phool's search for her husband is even difficult because neither she remembers the name of her husband's village nor she can name her husband, because in rural areas that's a strict no-no. In another world, Jaya, who was married against her will is happy to have been distanced from her real husband, and is secretly busy making plans for the future.

Always wise, never preachy

Written by Sneha Desai, Biplab Goswami and Divyanidhi Sharma, the story weaves these little nuances to tell a tale that never forces you to pay attention. It simply ebbs and flows from one scene to another and at a pace that is easy to follow. It lands you into a world where people want to lead simple lives, following norms set by their ancestors. I loved the way Laapataa Ladies on one hand highlights the gender stereotypes that have existed in our society for long, and on the other hand, smashes them without feeling apologetic.

It's a very tight rope that Rao treads when it comes to striking a balance in the film's narrative. The rural dialect with a dash of Bhojpuri trigger genuine laughs, and gladly, it's never to a point that it takes away from the seriousness of the narrative and turns it into a comedy. That being said, Rao never enters the preachy zone either. She keeps her messaging on a lighter tone yet making a strong impact and leaving you with enough food for thought.

A still from Laapataa Ladies.
A still from Laapataa Ladies.

Laapataa Ladies is set sometime in 2001, way before mobile phones became an extension of our bodies, and WhatsApp, an inseparable part of our lives. There is no social media either, so no way you can search for someone in the virtual world. Despite this disconnect, how the film effortlessly finds a connect and becomes relatable is worth a mention. As a socially relevant film, the film touches upon varied subjects ranging from female education, infertility to dowry and domestic violence, and does not go overboard with any of it. Nowhere do you feel like you are reading chapters from text books on issues that matter, instead Rao opts for a very pragmatic approach to address these prevalent societal norms. I like how Rao uses her protagonist to the best of their abilities and layers their characters in a manner that they don't end up being one-dimensional.

Stellar debuts

For debutants Nitanshi and Pratibha, Laapataa Ladies gives them ample scope to perform in their author-backed roles. They are naive, innocent and extremely convincing in their parts. The efforts put behind their rural dialect and body language is evident. Sparsh, who garnered praise for his Netflix series Jamtara shows an entirely different facet and his restrained act wins you over. There are several heartwarming moments between Phool and Manju Mai, which will bring a smile to your face. Amid all this, Ravi Kishan as the small town cop, who won't mind accepting under-the-table favours, steals the show. He has some of the best comic punches and one-liners that leave you in splits.

Laapataa Ladies isn't just about two brides who get swapped and feel lost in two different worlds. It's about how they find themselves while being vulnerable, and that leads to a new beginning of their lives. A clean comedy, a full-on entertainer, Lapaata Ladies makes for a perfect family watch.

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