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TALE OF A NAUGHTY GIRL, A

SYNOPSIS:†
Itís the late 60s in rural Bengal, Lati (Samata Das), the virginal daughter of a Rajani (Rituparna Sengupta), one of the most popular of the village prostitutes, wants desperately to get an education rather than follow in her motherís footsteps. But Rajani has noticed that the all-powerful local businessman Natabar Paladhi (Ramgopal Bajaj), the lecherous owner of the local cinema amongst other things, has his eye on her, with the potential promise of a (financially) easier life. Lati seeks the help of schoolteacher Nagen (Pradeep Mukherjee) to leave her village for a better life
.

Review by Louise Keller:
An affecting and charming tale with unexpectedly quirky subplots, A Tale of a Naughty Girl is a warm-hearted story about a young girl who is determined to continue her schooling rather than follow her mother into prostitution. Thereís a certain poignancy about Latiís determination to better herself, contrasted by her motherís resignation of both her own and Latiís fate. Besides, she lives in the belief that her metier will entitle her to ultimate salvation.†

In the filmís first frames we meet Natabar, the lewd cinema owner who is on the lookout for a young virgin as a plaything; he spends his leisure hours watching reels of women being groped. Thereís also the local taxi driver who is tired of having fares who cannot pay him. But he seems to reach a turning point when a young prostitute offers him her body as payment, and becomes a do-gooder as he drives an elderly couple around and about, in an incessant search for a hospital. He begins to look after them, and brings them food; the most amusing scenes occur when he shoves them in the back of his cab when obliged to drive Natabar to his destinations. When ominous sounds and odours begin to come from the back of the car, the driver makes up ludicrous excuses, blaming the car horn, and suggests that Natabar may like Ďto take a pissí, while he examines the horn. The scenes showing the prostitutes in their trade shed a pretty realistic glimpse of life for these women, and the juxtaposition of images of tree trunks rotting from the infestation of insects offers suggestions of moral decay.†

We get a real sense of life in the village, and understand the enormity of Latiís conviction to change her fate. I like the inclusion of a little story strand when a local cat is unceremoniously dumped in the middle of nowhere, but somehow overcomes the odds and manages to find its way home. Wonderful performances by all the cast bring the characters to life in this haunting and poetic film about hope.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

Subtitles normally shelter patchy acting, but not in this film. Samata Das as Lati, the young girl seeking escape from the village, is the one shining exception, giving a strong, consistent and engaging performance. Pradeep Mukherjee as the compassionate teacher is also pretty good, keeping us in the film with a certain stoic sensibility. I guess the frail old couple who are driven around in search of a hospital canít be faulted, but their role is pretty small and marginal.†

The two main offenders in the acting stakes are the prostitute mother Rituparna Sengupta, whose inconsistent performance undermines the filmís power, as does a similar weakness in the sleazy old businessman, played by Ramgopal Bajaj. Both actors seem to have trouble finding the right tone, zigzagging from overacting to not acting at all. Other offenders are the whorehouse girls, whose giggling is so forced it sounds like canned laughter of sorts. I also find the screenplay too thin, too one dimensional, relying on filler shots (some evidently suggested by Fellini) and repetition to extend the film beyond the short subject it should have been.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TALE OF A NAUGHTY GIRL, A (M)
(India)

Manda Meyer Upakhyan

CAST: Samata Das, Rituparna Sengupta, Arpan Basar, Tapas Pal, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Pradeep Mukherjee, June Malia, Sudipta Chakraborty

PRODUCER: Arya Bhattacharya

DIRECTOR: Buddhadev Dasgupta

SCRIPT: Buddhadev Dasgupta (short story by Prafulla Roy)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Venu

EDITOR: Raviranjan Maitra

MUSIC: Biswadep Dasgupta

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jayanta Kundu, Kaushik Sarkar

OTHER: LANGUAGE: Hindi / Bengali

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: October 16, 2003; Melbourne: April 1, 2004

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 11, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

VIDEO RELEASE: February 16, 2005







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