The trend away from films with central female characters has been a slow decline for a while now, and I’m damn sick of it! If you don’t believe me, read this piece called “Where Have All The Leading Ladies Gone?”
This trend has been happening in Hindi films as well – women are secondary characters. Check out the trailers for “Salaam-e-Ishq” and you’ll finish your juice before they start rattling off any female star names, even with that huge ol’ cast. So I was curious to see Rani Mukherjee’s turn as a simple Banareswali who goes to the big city to solve her family’s paise problems like a son would, only to find the final job that she’s offered as a woman with no qualifications is, surprise! a fancy escort. Mujhse dosti karoge!
And it’s an amazing turnaround – she’s all tricked out (pun alert!) in some fashionable clothes, walking the walk, and using makeup and wigs lickety split (ouch – that wasn’t supposed to be a pun)! That’s a makeover I’m in awe of. If I could redo myself that fast I’d have a few more identities going at the same time.
Abhishek Bachchan does a great turn as the boring-but-stable guy who takes her even after he knows. He distinguishes himself as the only Indian film star who can be counted on to dance with the white man’s overbite. Given his lineage, he could be a real stuck-up guy and he never seems to me to come across this way at all.
Sadly, despite the subject matter, I think this film was pretty shallow where the material could have been illuminating. What does it feel like to be assaulted by a man who won’t give you work unless you sleep with him? What happens when you turn tricks because no one will hire you at a respectful job and you’re alone in the city? I’m glad the film avoided being lurid and sensational, and wish it had given some insight into her story, especially since it was clear the main character was still the same honest and sincere village girl even while turning tricks. And marriage ended up saving the day. Sigh.