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India 2002
Directed by
Buddhadeb Dasgupta
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
3 stars

Tale Of A Naughty Girl, A

Synopsis: It is the late ‘60s in the small Bengali village of Gospaira. Lati (Samata Das) is the naughty girl whose tale is about to be told. Lati’s mother is a prostitute, and in her mind the fact that Lati wants to go back to school is of real concern. Lati’s life is an uphill battle that is only made harder by the fact that her mother, Rajani (Rituparna Sengupta) is more concerned about her own welfare than her daughter’s wishes. When Rajani organises a union between Lati and the local cinema-owner. Paladhi (Ramgopal Bajaj), it looks like Lati’s fate is taken out of her hands.

The director, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, is a celebrated Bengali poet and novelist who moved into filmmaking in 1976. He has since completed eleven feature films. The influence of such a background is evident in the lyrical nature of the film. The structure of the story is not strictly linear, however the different threads are slowly and satisfyingly pulled together.

Lati may be the subject of the film, however Ganeesh (Tapas Pal), Paladhi’s driver has the most interesting role. Not only does he ferry his boss around; he is also employed as the local taxi driver, a way for his boss to make some more money on the side. In this role he sees everything; he knows the strengths and foibles of all of the villagers just as he is well aware of his own. When a young girl cannot pay his fare, she offers her body. He at first intends to take her up on the offer, but changes his mind when he sees that she is little more than a child. An amusing aside occurs when Ganeesh takes responsibility for an elderly couple. His role becomes more pivotal when he assists Lati to escape her mother’s clutches.

The scenes shot at the bordello, where Rajani and Lati live, are colourful and inviting. As the camera leads us amongst the women, their laughter and seductive looks beckon us in. It is only when we go behind the scenes that we learn how desperate the lives of these women are. There are heartless husbands and cruel customers who create misery in their lives. The friendship between the women is their saving grace. Three of the younger prostitutes dream of walking out the door and finding a village were they can start their lives over again.

The film is a perfect antidote to megaplex fare. Instead of having everything thrown at us as a sensory assault, here we are invited to make our own connections. The slow pace of the film, which mirrors the seemingly uneventful lives of its characters, encourages the audience to appreciate day-to-day activities as they unfold. Each of the characters has their story to tell and the overall tone is life-affirmative. Just at the moment man takes a step on the moon, Lati’s future opens up in front of her. The new generation have had their eyes open to the rest of the world and there can be no turning back




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