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When newly married bride, Neelu, was brought in the brothel by her husband, Appa Rao, on false pretences, Muskaan Bano, a courtesan for several years, also remembered her unfortunate story. Things change when the police raid the brothel, and apprehend the patrons and the courtesans. Inspector Sawant takes a liking to Muskaan, and decides to promote her to another "market", albeit more sophisticated, to which she agrees. Thereafter there is no looking back for Muskaan, who is now known as Malika, and the sky is the limit, including avenging herself against her Arab husband, who sold her at the flesh market, with deadly results, as well as a chance at meeting the person who really runs India. Written by
Horrible script results in surprisingly decent film
Let me start with a message to director Jay Prakash and the production team of Market: Script! Script! Script! Let me say that one more time, a bit more verbosely--Pay Attention to the Script! That's a kind of public service message, in the off chance that Prakash and his crew read this (unfortunately, Bollywood and Bollywood fans seem to have paid relatively little attention to IMDb so far).
Market is ostensibly about prostitution rackets in India, but it really ends up being the story of a particular prostitute, Muskaan Bana (Manisha Koirala). But you wouldn't know that from the beginning of the film, which seems like it's about a young woman named Neela. Neela met a man who eloped with her and married her. It was really a ruse, as he takes her to Hyderabad to visit his "aunt", who turns out to be the madam of a large whorehouse. His intention was actually just to sell the woman to the Madam. It seems that in India--at least in the India of this film--prostitution is something more like slavery (but more on that later).
The first 20 minutes to half hour of the film is the story of Neela and Neela's brother, who is trying to get her out of the whorehouse after he receives a tip from Muskaan that Neela is there. Oddly, Neela and her brother are just dropped after this, never to be heard from again. That's indicative of script problems that recur throughout the film.
At any rate, Market then becomes (roughly) the tale of Muskaan. We learn of how she was married off by her father to a sheikh, because the sheikh was offering a substantial sum of money, upward mobility in terms of class, and because it would increase the likelihood that Muskaan's father's other daughters would find upper class suitors, as well. But the sheikh married Muskaan just for sex. He repeatedly rapes her during her only week with him, before she returns home. This leads to tragedy with Muskaan's family, they try to sue the sheikh, and on and on. Eventually Muskaan ends up in Mumbai working for a pimp named Juicy, ridiculously enough, and Market becomes something of a mob/revenge film.
I'm leaving out an awful lot of details in the above, and not just because I want to avoid giving away important plot points. Rather, the film is so stream-of-consciousness and sprawling that it would take way more than the allotted 1000 words to try to relay just the basics of the plot, and even then, it still wouldn't seem very coherent to a reader.
Maybe more so than any other film I've seen, most of Market seems like Prakash and crew simply made it up on the fly. At times, early in the film, it plays like a collection of shorts based around a whorehouse. That probably wouldn't have been a bad idea if they had stuck with that.
Even after it first becomes clear that this is going to be the story of Muskaan instead of Neela or a collection of different character portraits, Muskaan ends up disappearing for long periods of time while we focus on newer characters in different settings. There's really never an end to the introduction of new characters who are important to the plot. At one point I lost track of them, but I decided not to worry, because I knew the characters mentioned wouldn't be in the film for long--another set would be introduced, the last set dropped. I turned out to be correct.
Given that, then, it's maybe surprising that on a close-focus (or "trees") level, the writing is pretty good, aside from occasionally hokey dialogue (not helped by the English translation, which regularly does odd things like translate Hindi for "do you understand?" as "Do you dig it?" or just "Dig?"--I guess the translator was an old hippie). It's also surprising by the time we get to the last half hour (the film is about 2.5 hours), a few threads are reintroduced and nicely wrapped-up--like they finally figured out basic screen writing by that point. At times, it seems like maybe the script was supposed to be a bit experimental (again, the collection of different character studies would have been that, especially for Bollywood), but if so, why was it so potboiler in other respects? It needed to go one way or the other.
Instead of blaming the script, we could also blame the editing. Prakash could have cut out large chunks of the film and assembled the remaining pieces into something more coherent and unified. On the other hand, the film would have only been 80-90 minutes long, and coming from Bollywood, that's probably too radical.
Before I run out of room, hasn't it struck anyone that a lot of problems depicted in Indian films are the result of treating women (and to an extent men, also) as property and/or an investment? The women in Market are all treated like property and no one seems to notice. It just doesn't strike anyone, including the women themselves, that they have minds and wills, and that they could decide what to do with their own lives (including deciding to be a prostitute). And it's not just Bollywood's comment on prostitution. Most other Bollywood films treat women the same way--apparently, this has some truth in Indian culture. Most of the problems would be solved if people were allowed to think for themselves and make and stick to unpopular or unusual decisions about how to live their lives.
All the standard stuff in Market is pretty good--the acting is okay, the music is good, the production design is nice, the women are certainly attractive (although there is no nudity or sex despite the subject matter), there is some admirable cinematography, and so on. This could have been a very good to excellent film if it had had a good script.
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