You can see the steely resolve in her eyes - a magnificent roller-skating dancer, Pinky (Deepika Padukone) wants a "passport" out of her current situation by winning a reality talent hunt show. Out from TilakWadi, a bustling chawl where they call her "dance bar" for her ambition and disturb her dance practice with their antics. She's not one to be discouraged though. The practice venue is shifted, to a storehouse with live chickens. But she's up for this struggle.
Meanwhile she's biding her time working as a skating instructor, and making rotis for her no-good brother. Her mother is the only one who supports her, simultaneously wondering how Pinky's skating will be of any use after marriage.
Just as we're cheering her, Pinky loses her eyesight. She's then encouraged by local friend Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a champion street fighter famous for knocking down his opponents blindfolded and with a single punch. We then observe this unlikely love story unfold. The characterisation is a tad wonky. You don't quite get Nandu's character who enjoys the fighting, is obviously drawn to the world of crime, and yet agrees to the prospect of dancing all too easily. Again, Pinky's almost-immediate emotional recovery after the handicap is unexplained and glossed over. But there are moments that touch your heart, too. Her first journey home after becoming blind is beautifully portrayed: from falling face - down in a muddy pothole, to taking help from strangers to cross the road - you feel overwhelmed by this character's extraordinary spirit. In fact, the fire in her eyes only gets more intense, once they can see no more. The portions where the local gang helps Pinky cope with blindness, making her independent, are fun. Pradeep Sarkar (Parineeta, Laaga Chunnari Mein Daag) weaves dexterously a tale combining multiple stories: that of a middle-class girl's aspirations and her struggle with a handicap, Nandu's constant dilemma, and a parallel track involving a persistent cop. Dialogue by Gopi Puthran is engaging and has the propensity to make a point using humour. The Mumbai tapori lingo appears authentic in parts. The places it doesn't work is when kids are given the cheeky dialogues to amuse the viewer. Music by first-timer R Anandh is lilting, further enhanced by Swanand Kirkire's lyrics. Zubin Balaporia's alive background score is a huge plus.
Deepika Padukone is a delight throughout: when she's delivering her smart-alecky dialogue, to her icy cool nerves before a competition, the scenes where her pride is hurt for being dependant on others, and her utterly graceful dance moves. The character has depth, intelligence and range, and Deepika grabs this wonderful opportunity wholeheartedly, giving us a memorable rendering.
Neil Nitin Mukesh again proves to be an actor who can make solid impact quietly. His underplayed acting style complements the character's sketch perfectly. K K Menon is memorable even in his special appearance role.
It's interesting to find a parallel between Lafangey Parindey
. Pinky's ambition to make something of her talent reminds us of Milli (Urmila Matondkar) from Rangeela
. The other similarity, of course, being their modest backgrounds and a portrayal of the 'charming' middle-class life. In Lafangey Parindey
, too, the characters belong to a chawl where there is bonhomie and camaraderie. It's a world where Pinky's success becomes TilakWadi's honour, and where firecrackers are burst to welcome her after she clears the first round of auditions. So yes, it's a romanticised outsider gaze into a world where the friendships are real, tears are shed for others, and festivals celebrated loudly. But if you peel through this superficial portrayal, you'll be touched by this immersing, sensitive story that couldn't have made it as a mainstream release a few years ago. Worth a watch!
Rating: 3 stars