Laga Chunari Mein Daag

Cast: Rani Mukherji, Konkona Sen, Jaya Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Abhishek Bachchan, Kunal Kapoor, Sushant Singh, Tinnu Anand

Director: Pradeep Sarkar

Back in the 60s, in a film called Ainaa, poor girl Mumtaz becomes a girl of easy virtue, to save her family from penury. Forty years on, Rani's plight is the same, even if her journey from carefree lass in Benares to high-class escort in Bambai is a little more sophisticated. Basically, Pradeep Sarkar's Laga Chunari Mein Daag is very aged wine — palatable, but with no strikingly new notes.

Badki and Chutki (Rani and Konkona) frolic on the ghats of Benares, and go home to aged parents (Anupam and Jaya), and a crumbling haveli. There are mounting debts, no pension, the younger daughter's fees, and rapacious relatives (Sushant and Tinnu). So what's a big sister to do?

In Mumbai, the not-even-the-tenth-class-pass Badki passes through the hands of the usual suspects — leering call centre owners and sympathetic but helpless bystanders — to become the 'very exclusive, very, very expensive Natasha', who warms the beds of high rollers in five star hotel rooms.

Rani holds the film together, even if her part, both as the ingénue and the hooker, doesn't have freshness. But Konkona, the other person who has the maximum screen time, is trying so desperately to be a choti-twirling, thumka-lagayi-ke, beeda-uthai-ke gal that it shows: she's much better in her urban avatar of an advertising professional with a fast-talking dimpled charmer of a boy friend (Kunal Kapoor).

And because the movie is made here and now, Natasha aka Badki doesn't have to cop it. She is redeemed by the love of a noble human (Abhishek) who knows all, but cares not a whit, and who gets to spout that immortal one-liner: main tumse bahut pyar karta tha, par ab mein tumhari usse bhi zyaada izzat karta hoon.

And you thought such lines were history.

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