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Monday, September 24, 2007

Bollywood Stops Pretending

A certain type of prosititution has been covered for decades in mainstream Bollywood movies, from the days when prostitutes were beautiful and talented dancers, catered to the rich of society. In "Umrao Jaan," which was recently re-made (though it was a flop, compared to the original classic), actress Rekha played the famous role of a courtesan who was a legendary poet and singer. "Pakeezah" was another incredible movie, portraying the role of a courtesan who fell in love with a rich man. "Devdas," remade three times in Bollywood, also had a courtesan who lived in luxury and fell in love with a handsome, rich man.

I use the word "courtesan" to describe all these characters because, although these women were prostitutes, they lived a life of beautiful jewelry and costumes and love affairs with young rich men.Actual "prostitutes," women who actually sell themselves on the street, are rarely seen as main characters in mainstream Bollywood.

"Laaga Chunari Mein Daag," a film releasing next month, deals with a middle class family moving to a big city, Mumbai. The main character becomes a prostitute, and must hide this truth from her sister, father, and loved ones.

Although the films "Chandni Bar" and "Chameli" were movies where the actresses were prostitutes, those movies were not as mainstream. The reasons that I believe this film is more revolutionary than others are:

  1. It will have a greater effect and outreach than others because of the star-cast, which includes six extremely popular Bollywood stars.
  2. The director's last film (which was his first) was an award winning, box-office success
  3. The music is catered towards the mainstream Indian audience (there is an introductory song, a love song, a sad song, and a party song-- ingredients to a hit musical score)
  4. The production company, Yash Raj Productions, is the currently the most popular and successful in India.
  5. The film brings together Rani Mukherji, who plays the main lead, and Konkona Sen Sharma, the supporting actress. Mukherji is one of the top actresses, who has extreme commercial appeal and great credibility. Sharma has been tagged by many as an incredible actress (seen in more art-house style films), but has slowly started acting in mainstream films.

Although this movie isn't going to be groundbreaking, it is always exciting when Bollywood stops pretending that certain societal problems do not exist, or that audiences won't be able to handle it.It's about time that a mainstream, blockbuster film about prostitution is made.