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Badnaam Gali Means Well, But Flounders & Falls

Subhash K . Jha

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Badnaam Gali

Badnaam Gali(Zee5)

Starring  Patralekhaa, Divyenndu  Sharma

Directed  by Ashwin Shetty

Rating: ** ½(two and a  half stars)

  A film on surrogate motherhood  for Mother’s Day. Sounds just like what the doctor ordered.And Badnaam Gali, now   streaming  on Zee5 , does mean  well. It displays an exacerbated empathy for  the unwed mother, played with endearing artlessless by Patralekhaa, who is a target  of vicious gossiping in her Delhi locality.

She is  of course not  what  she seems.Never!  And it takes  a rough rural Punjabi  bloke to  set  her reputation  right  and earn himself  the  honour of being  the first social reformist  of  the  live streaming platform , a la GuruDutt(Pyaasa) and  Sunil Dutt(Sujata, Sadhana).

 Redeeming the  Fallen Woman has  always been  a  looming concern  in  the patriarchal setup of Indian cinema. Making  films about women who are restored  their dignity  through  the  good offices of  a ‘progressive’  male  makes  the  patriarchal entertainment industry feel good about itself.

In  Badnaam  Gali  the supporting cast  of gossiping  idlers  is portrayed  in the most caricatural    of  styles  obtainable  to cinema. While the  film and its concern  for the Fallen Woman grow progressively  preposterous the two very talented  lead  players Patralekhaa and  Divyenndu Sharma  struggle to inject credibility to  a script that  insists on shooting itself in the  foot.

 The  inconsistent  tone  of  narration is somewhat controlled  by  the  stable  restrained lead  performances.  WhilePatralekhaa  infuses a certain impishness  to her  role that could easily have become a  victim’s  sob-story, Divyennduas the  do-gooder drags  the  plot  away from  impending catastrophe time and  time again.

Admirably Divyenndu rescues  Patralekhaa  from ignominy(not that she craves  to  be ‘rescued’).But even an actor of  his calibre  cannot rescue  a  film that means well but  squanders its noble intentions in  infinite absurdities.

 By the  time the  we arrive at the acutely embarrassing climax  in the hospital  (with the hero’s father played by the talented  Paritosh Sand , pretending to have a heart attack  so that his hero-son can  confront a corrupt doctor who has sold away the heroine’s  maternal rights over her surrogate child) the film is  DOA.

And that’s a sad RIP for a  little  film that seethes in  righteous  indignation  but ends up making even the talented Dolly Ahluwalia look  like the  hammy character-actress  Manorama turning   from the  riotous  Geeta to  righteous  Sita in a film that suffers  from  a split personality.

There  is a vast chasm between what Badnaam  Gali  means and what it achieves.

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