A wedding day is a momentous occasion for two people. It’s the moment in time they will be legally stuck together forever. In the case of Lost Ladies, it’s also the moment when two ladies…get lost. Phool (Nitanshi Goel) and Deepak (Sparsh Shrivastava) are married at Phool’s family’s house before boarding a train to share the good news with Deepak’s family. They find open seats next to another newly married woman named Jaya (Pratibha Ranta). Over the course of the long train ride, seats are shuffled and people fall asleep. When it’s time for Deepak and Phool to disembark, Deepak wakes up and grabs the hand of a bride. It’s only after the train has left the station that Deepak realizes this woman is not his wife, it’s Jaya. Which means Phool is headed away to an unknown destination.
A few things to note if you’re scratching your head at this premise. It does, at first blush, seem a little out there for even the most unusual romantic comedy, but let’s set the scene. Lost Ladies takes place in 2001 in India. There’s one mobile phone that plays a featured role in the movie, but cell phones weren’t the norm at this point in time. Also, the traditional attire for a woman getting married in India includes a veil. Both Phool and Jaya are wearing red marital saris with similar gold accents. The brides are also forced to look down to see where they’re walking, so very rarely are they looking at their groom’s face. Combine all these things and you have yourself a comedy of mistaken identities.
It’s utterly refreshing to watch a movie lovingly poke fun at a culture when it’s done by someone who is sharing the quirks of their own lived experience. For example, as the daughter of a Greek man and a distinctly non-Greek woman, My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a special place in my heart and home. While it’s by no means the first example of a comedy that understands that tradition can be both respected and teased, it is the one I come back to because of my own relationship to the subject. Lost Ladies has that same teasing, heartfelt approach to the Indian traditions. When asked by the police officer (Ravi Kishan) for a photo of Phool to help in the search process, he produces the only photo he has of her. One that was taken on their wedding day where she’s wearing the veil, so it’s impossible to see her face.
Lost Ladies is breezy. It has fun, but never in a mean or spiteful way. It’s very reminiscent of a ’90s romantic comedy where the plot is a little outrageous, but if you go along for the ride you won’t be disappointed. There’s a fair amount of romance too. One of the grooms is devastated that he lost his bride, but the other isn’t. Which one is which is for the audience to discover. At its core, Lost Ladies is a love story. It’s about two lovers desperately trying to find each other again, and the strength it takes to follow a dream that goes against what their families believe in. Finding love isn’t just meeting your better half and riding off into happily ever after. Love is also finding the passion that fuels you and rising to the top of the corporate ladder. Love is weird, messy, and life-changing, and it comes in a multitude of forms.
One of the great aspects of TIFF, and film in general, is the freedom it gives the viewer to be picked up and deposited into a world that’s not their own. Or picked up and dropped off in a world they acutely know, but have never had the joy of seeing on the big screen. That’s the magic of Lost Ladies. It’s a perfect example of celebrating culture and tradition while showing the audience that humans are a lot more similar than we think. Lost Ladies is a delightful romp through a comedy of errors that, of course, ends with a happily ever after.