A Tale of a Naughty Girl is director Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s work about Lati, a prostitute’s daughter who wants to be a student but whose mother Rajani wants to marry her off. So the film sets up a predictable tension between the life of the mind and the reality of the body in a small Indian village.
The impression I got from the publicity materials made me expect a much more depressing film than it turned out to be – was expecting one of those ‘life is awful for women in third world countries’ films, but that turned out to be leavened by some sense of optimism. Dasgupta does a good job of balancing the terrible nature of life for the women in the brothel – there’s a nice scene near the end where silently the camera just goes room to room and we see the awful customers, asleep, and then the saddened prostitutes – with the idea that life isn’t completely hopeless: the year is 1969, year of the Apollo moon landing, and the news of the momentous event trickles down to the village. The film of course draws the natural parallel to Lati’s attempts to escape the enormous gravity of her world. Perhaps therein lies the weakness of A Tale of a Naughty Girl: while well shot and acted, the film seems, like the lives it depicts, to be mired in predictability.