Jio Studios and Aamir Khan Productions’ Laapataa Ladies (UA) is the story of two brides who inadvertently get exchanged.

Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastava) is married to Phool (Nitanshi Goel) who lives in a nearby village. After spending a couple of nights with his wife in her house, Deepak is now getting her to his village by train. As bad luck would have it, he brings another new bride home because both the brides had their faces covered with the saree veil. Meanwhile, Phool, left alone, is petrified as she doesn’t remember the name of her husband’s village. She befriends some people on the railway platform of the station where she disembarks from the train. Meanwhile, the other bride’s husband, Pradeep (Bhaskar Jha), is as worried as Deepak on losing his wife (Pratibha Ranta). Like Deepak files a police complaint in his village, Pradeep also complains to the police in his village about his missing wife. What happens thereafter?

Biplab Goswami’s story is fresh and entertaining. Since brides in small towns and villages in the hinterland move with their faces covered in veils, the story has relevance. This may be unusual for the city audience but as the film is set in the villages, it will not be found awkward by the city folk too. Sneha Desai has written a fantastic screenplay. Her drama is so wonderful that it keeps the audience involved and engaged all through. The drama does drop for a while post-interval but that’s for a few minutes, after which it picks up again. There are several scenes in which the public would laugh out loud. In some scenes, the audience will chuckle or smile. The last part of the drama has such a lovely message and it is so beautifully woven in the script that it makes the writing even more solid. There are a few scenes in which the viewers would even cry — sometimes tears of joy. In short, the drama is wholesome. The conviction of Phool is heartwarming while the confidence of the other bride, Jaya, is praiseworthy. It is this conviction and this confidence which make the two protagonists endearing to the fullest. The dialogues, penned by Sneha Desai, with additional dialogues by Divyanidhi Sharma, are just too terrific. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the dialogues are a major asset of the film.

Debutante Nitanshi Goel is pretty endearing in the role of Phool. She acts so naturally that it doesn’t look like she is acting. Pratibha Ranta does very well as Jaya in her maiden role. She leaves a wonderful impression in the last few reels, especially. Sparsh Shrivastava makes a promising debut as Deepak. He does full justice to his role. Bhaskar Jha makes a good impression as Pradeep. Ravi Kishan is extraordinary as police officer Manohar. His expressions are to be seen to be believed. Chhaya Kadam shines in the role of Manju Maai. Her performance is a class apart! Satendra Soni is truly endearing as Chhotu. Daood Hussain is exceptionally nice as Gunjan. Geeta Agarwal has her moments as Deepak’s mother. Her sense of timing deserves mention. Pankaj Sharma is lovely as Deepak’s father. Sanjay Dogra is nice as the constable at Murti police station. Shad Mohamad is endearing as Hanif. Ravi Kapadiya makes his mark as Abdul. Abeer Sandeep Jain does justice to his role as Bablu. Vivek Sawrikar stands out as the station master who instructs Phool to count the number of stations. In fact, his instructions bring tears to the eyes. Sanjay Kota is good as the station guard. Rachna Gupta is effective as Poonam. Kirti Jain and Balram lend able support as Daadi and Dadda respectively. Pranjal Pateriya (as Raghu), Samarth Mayor (as Bilas), Durgesh Kumar (as Dubey), Savita Malviya (as Phool’s mother), Govind Lovaniya (as Phool’s father), Aman Srivastava (as Phool’s brother), Tapasya (as Phool’s grandmother), Khushboo Chowbidkar (as Phool’s aunt), A.M. Dhannu Lal (as Phool’s uncle), Ranjana Tiwari (as Pradeep’s mother), Arjun Singh (as Pradeep’s father), Aadarsh (as Hari), Rahul Rajawat (as Shambhu), Atishay Akhil (as Sudhir), Vasu (as Mohit), Meenu Kale (as the folk singer), Kanupriya Rishimum (as Belaji), Narendra Khatri (as the chutney man), Gajanan (as the jeweller), Sartaj Shad (as Aabida), Sunil Pathak (as the owner of the cyber cafe), Mahesh Parmar (as the travel agent), Sundar Likhar (as MLA Mani Singh), Apama Upadhaya (as Jaya’s mother), and the others lend superb support. Romil’s casting deserves special mention because it is so perfect!

Kiran Rao’s direction is first-rate. She has narrated the subject in such a perfect manner that the drama becomes thoroughly entertaining as well as engaging. Ram Sampath’s music is melodious and also in synch with the mood of the film. Lyrics (Swanand Kirkire, Prashant Pandey and Divyanidhi Sharma) are meaningful as well as appropriate. Ram Sampath’s background music is impactful. Vikash Nowlakha’s cinematography is lovely. Vikram Singh’s production designing, and Kshitij Jeevan Randhir’s art direction are excellent. Jabeen Merchant deserves distinction marks for her sharp editing.

On the whole, Laapataa Ladies is an excellent entertainer, that too, with a strong message. Lack of face value would definitely drastically limit its initial appeal but extremely strong word of mouth will definitely see collections grow markedly and quite rapidly to make it a success story. This film is a fine example of strong content with almost zero face value.

Released on 1-3-’24 at Inox (daily 5 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru PVR Inox Pictures. Publicity: good. Opening: dull. …….Also released all over. Opening was weak everywhere.