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Laapataa Ladies and Kathal are like the soothing rainfall during an intolerable summer | We thirst for more

While movies high on machoism rule the roost, I would love to watch more films like Kiran Rao’s Laapataa Ladies and Guneet Monga’s Kathal. They use subtly and humour to highlight important issues

Laapataa Ladies and Kathal are like the soothing rainfall during an intolerable summer | We thirst for more

Posters for Laapataa Ladies and Kathal

Last Updated: 07.52 PM, May 03, 2024


In India, we are bombarded with movies that ride high on masochism. Even a movie like Fighter (2024), which has a formidable enough female lead in Deepika Padukone, still rides high on hero (not heroine) worship of Hrithik Roshan. So, it comes as a relief that feels almost as good as eagerly-awaited rainfall in this intolerable summer heat when movies like Laapataa Ladies and Kathal come along. Take a bow, Kiran Rao, Aamir Khan, Ektaa Kapoor and Guneet Monga, for giving us these treats: movies that are about some very serious issues that have been plaguing India for centuries, but shown in a light-hearted, breezy and funny manner.

Laapataa Ladies is a recent entry on Netflix and one that I was eager to watch. And I am thrilled that it is trending on the OTT platform. First of all, a shoutout to the casting director for choosing the perfect actors for each role. The sweet and innocent Phool (Nitashi Goel), the sincere Deepak (Sparsh Srivastav), the determined Jaya (Pratibha Ranta), the fiesty Manju Maai (Chaaya Kadam), and the corrupt cop Shyam Manohar (Ravi Kishan), who pleasantly surprises you, are all superb in their roles. You believe that these are real people and not actors.

Laapataa Ladies and Kathal hit the right spot

Highlighting serious issues through subtlety and humour

Laapataa Ladies is set in the early 2000s, although you are never told that. You are transported back in time with posters of Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha Patel in Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, and with Dubey Ji (Durgesh Kumar) saying that the creation of Chhatisgarh took place just a year earlier. And this isn’t where the subtleties end. While Laapataa Ladies is a tale of the repression that women face throughout their lives—from when they are young girls being groomed for marriage to when they have daughters-in-law of their own—it is never shoved in your face. And you are never forced to feel bad. Instead, you are made to realise that with quips and otherwise shocking sentences spoken in a matter-of-fact manner. A newly-married man boasting about his dowry, for instance, is not something you expect to hear, but you don’t feel uncomfortable for long.

The same goes for Kathal. While the spotlight is on heavy issues like caste and women’s issues, it is never blinding. Even though they are portrayed in a comical light, the issues are never made smaller than they are or ridiculed. In fact, it is humour that highlights these serious matters that unfortunately continue to plague the country.

Chaaya Kadam in Laapataa Ladies and Sanya Malhotra in Kathal
Chaaya Kadam in Laapataa Ladies and Sanya Malhotra in Kathal

Feminism that is not in your face

While Manju Maai in Laapataa Ladies is a feminist, she isn’t loud about her cause. Although she’s a toughie, she's kind without making anyone feel like a charity case. She says what many have perhaps thought: If a man can justify hitting a woman because he loves her, a woman can do the same, can’t she?

Kathal’s Mahima Basor (Sanya Malhotra) is a police inspector who belongs to a caste that is considered lowly. The way she fights this on an almost everyday basis (even her subordinates talk lowly of her caste) is not through anger or by lashing out, but by using her wit to shut people up. While we get to see the petite police officer be tough with criminals, we also get to see a small-town woman and her insecurities about being a senior officer to her boyfriend who belongs to a higher caste (a great way to show that caste has little to do with merit), which is a reason they are unable to get married. You feel a twinge but can also relate when she asks her senior to give her boyfriend a promotion instead of her so that they can finally be ‘equals’ and get married.

Ravi Kishan in Laapataa Ladies and Anant V Joshi in Kathal
Ravi Kishan in Laapataa Ladies and Anant V Joshi in Kathal

And it is not the women alone who carry the message of feminism forward in Laapataa Ladies and Kathal. Saurabh Dwivedi (Anant V Joshi) in Kathal does not care about his girlfriend’s lower caste or higher position at work. He doesn’t give heed to even his parents, who use this to dissuade him from marrying Mahima. What's more, he doesn’t do this by fighting them or by being portrayed as righteous. Meanwhile, Laapataa Ladies’ Shyam Manohar is a corrupt officer but he is not blind to a woman’s woes. He has no qualms about taking a bribe from Jaya’s husband, but there’s also no bravado when it comes to how he secures her freedom from an abusive man. Yes, he’s a man in power, but he doesn’t look down on women the way everyone else seems to do.

Why we need more movies like Laapataa Ladies and Kathal

At a time when, unfortunately, not a lot has changed for women, it is important that movies are made that highlight these issues in an entertaining manner. It is only then that people will want to watch them without giving them labels. Laapataa Ladies and Kathal both have several social evils in their stories, but there is no arguing that they are both entertaining movies.

It’s no coincidence that both movies are backed by women, showing us again the importance of having more women behind the cameras and financing movies. It is the only way to get a fair representation of what literally half the population is going through.

Laapataa Ladies is available to be streamed on Netflix, while Kathal can be watched on Amazon Prime Video.

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