Laapataa Ladies review – Shakespearean carry-on in Indian arranged-marriage comedy


Focus / Culture 55 Views comments

If you can get with the larky premise, Kiran Rao’s tale of mixed-up newlyweds makes for a gently probing comedy of manners

With a film set in rural India in 2001, Mumbai Diaries’ Kiran Rao directs a tale of two newlywed couples taking a long journey by train to set up their new homes in different villages. Changing trains by night in a rush, one groom grabs the hand of the wrong woman and hustles her off the train with him. The mistake isn’t discovered until they reach his village. Anyone who sits down to this gentle comedy-drama on the basis that its wife-swapping premise sounds like a saucy throwback to the Confessions of a Window Cleaner-style romps of Britcoms past is in for a sad disappointment, but they’ll find themselves entertained nevertheless.

It’s not quite as implausible as it might sound: both marriages are arranged, so the couples aren’t familiar with each other, and the brides are both veiled in strikingly similar red marital garments. Plus, it’s late, it’s dark, it’s crowded … look, you’re just going to have to go along with it. There’s even an argument that the classical implausibility of the mix-up helps situate the story in the realm of Shakespearean comedies, where people are constantly passing themselves off as long-lost gender-switching brothers and sisters. The secondary cast of characters underline this: Chhaya Kadam as the no-nonsense station tea shop owner and Ravi Kishan as a grimacing police officer feel like exactly the kinds of character roles you can imagine Miriam Margolyes or Simon Russell Beale getting their teeth into in an English-language version.

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