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Upperstall Review

Synopsis


Ladki

Hindi, Drama, 1953, B/W





Rani (Vyjayanthimala), a feminist who believes in equal treatment of women, is best friends with Kamini (Anjali Devi) much to the disapprovement of her mother since Kamini's father (Chittor V Nagaiah) had married a woman of low caste. They meet Raja (Bharat Bhushan), a medical student, and Kishore (Kishore Kumar). Needless to say after the initial tussle, Raja and Kamini fall in love while Kishore likes Rani. Rani goes to Columbo for the University Sports Tournament and while winning every single event she enters there, injures her leg†and is in hospital. Meanwhile Kamini and Raja marry secretly since he knows his woman-hating, upper caste father will never agree to this marriage. Captain Sundar, Kamini's childhood†friend, comes from Rangoon and wants to marry Kamini but is shattered as he finds out she is married to Raja. Raja's parents are told of the wedding and they call him home asking him to forget the marriage and marry a girl of their choice. Raja refuses and goes back to Kamini and misunderstands the situation when he sees Kamini with Sundar. He returns to his parents and tells them he's willing to marry the girl†of their liking†who turns†out to be Rani, having returned from Columbo. Kamini, devastated by Raja's betrayal, decides to commit suicide. Finally with Kishore and Sundar's help, everything is sorted out and Raja is re-united with Kamini while Kishore marries Rani.



On viewing a film like Ladki now, you cannot help but wonder...What were they thinking?! A ridiculous excuse of a plot having a 'social message' presented with so-called 'entertainment' - arbitrary items strung together with comedy, romance and tragedy in turns with 'feminism' thrown in for good measure!

There is not much to say about the handling of the film's content that talks about respecting women and looking at human beings not by their caste but by their deeds. Much of the message is lost and diluted in the film's desperate aim to entertain and be a box office hit. What's more, the clunky overlong film has dated and dated badly. Some of the sequences like Kamini's father's death are absurd to say the least. Or even the 'obvious' metaphors like the model of the house exploding when Raja says he has cut off all ties with Kamini. And the less said about Om Prakash's woman-hating comedy track, the better.

Ladki re-unites Vyjayanthimala with her Bahar (1951) director MV Raman and producer from the South, AV Meiyappan. As with Bahar and many of her early films, it is Vyjayanthimala's dances that are the film's saving graces although it is unintentionally funny now to see how deliberate and obviously tacky the sequences are which lead into her dances. For instance, a foreign dancer in Columbo does her dance and then it is asked of the audience if anyone will challenge her. Of course, we know Vyjayanthimala will! And lo, we not only have a song and dance with complete costumes and amicably designed sets with Vyjayanthimala mouthing the wonders of India but during the course of the song, we have two Vyjayanthimalas dancing simultaneously, one playing a male role! Of course, the foreign dancer beats a hasty retreat. And if that is not enough, we have another song using this device of a male and female Vyjayanthimala right throughout and often simultaneously within the same frame, logic be damned. One supposes that these were regarded as highly imaginative items in their time.

Looking at the central performances of Vyjayanthimla and Anjali Devi - As in Bahar with Vyjayanthimala and Pandari Bai, Ladki too makes no real demands on 'feminist' tomboy Vyjayanthimala histrionically and leaves the other actress, Anjali Devi, to play the so-called acting role, in this case the weepy, motherless girl who suffers because her father did not believe in caste differences and married a woman of low caste. South Indian films do have a tendency to be melodramatic but here it must be said that though melodramatic, by and large Anjali Devi acquits herself rather well as against Pandari Bai's eye popping theatrics in the earlier Bahar. The heroes Bharat Bhushan and Kishore Kumar are strictly supportive appendages at best and Bhushan looks woefully out of sorts and uncomfortable on screen while Kishore Kumar does what he can, bringing the film to life with his lively antics whenever he is on screen. One sees his potential for zany comedy that would go on to flower fully in films like Asha (1957), Chalti ka Naam Gadi (1958) and Half Ticket (1962). Chittor V Nagaiah lends solid support as Kamini's father.

The music of the film is adequate and sweet enough without any of the songs being truly being spectacular compositions except the stand out number by far in the film, Geeta Dutt's semi-classical Baat Chalat. Those who think the singer had a limited range and a lack of training to sing truly complex songs would have to do a strong rethink after hearing her amazing rendering of the song. And mention must be made of Anjali Devi's lip sync of the song which has some pretty long though static takes. Kishore Kumar too makes an impact with his solo - Shaadi...Shaadi.

All in all, the film makes for extremely tedious viewing today.




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