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Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Kamla' attempts to explore the issue of slavery and its existence in modern Indian society. The film opens with a knock on the door followed by the sequence where Jaisingh meets a flesh trader to buy a (sex)slave and he chooses a young lady named 'Kamla'. Jaisingh is a workaholic journalist obsessed with exposing the dark truths masked by the lies of politicians. The film starts off very well and convincingly depicts how Kamla is used by Jaisingh and ridiculed by the press. While Jaisingh is obsessed with telling the truth, he forgets his responsiblities as a human being and why it's important to let the truth out. For him, Kamla is just a tool that would help him reach his goal and make his newspaper look good. After a two day long journey Kamla isn't even allowed to take a shower and wear clean clothes because this would interfere with his presentation of the truth. Another interesting angle is the portrayal of the marriage between the journalist and Sarita. Through Kamla, Sarita realizes that she is no different. Like her, she too is a tool that Jaisingh can use at his own will.
The execution is slightly dated. 'Kamla' has two very beautiful songs. The editing is a little sloppy and it is quite bad towards the end. The ending is preachy and messy. It feels rushed, as if, Mundhra was suddenly pressured to finish off the film in short time. Marc Zuber overacts and sometimes he's unintentionally funny. Deepti Naval is amazing in the title role. With an understated performance she conveys Kamla's vulnerability, naivety and innocence through gesture. Shabana Azmi is equally incredible. Both actresses beautifully depict the relationship between Kamla and Sarita. Their shared scenes are the highlights of the film. Not to forget, A.K. Hangal and Sulabha Deshpande provide fine support.
Mundhra's attempt to tackle issues in some of his films can be appreciated to an extent. 'Kamla' had potential but it is mainly let down by poor writing. I'd still say that it was worth watching only to watch Shabana and Deepti share screenspace.
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