Starring Patralekhaa, Divyenndu Sharma
Directed by Ashwin Shetty
Rating: ** (two and a half stars)
A film on surrogate motherhood for Mothers 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 victims 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 heros 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 heroines maternal rights over her surrogate child) the film is DOA.
And thats 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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