She is addressed as Rajjo Rani. But she isn?t the queen of all she surveys.
The reason is out there for all to see: the nautch girl played by a hopelessly miscast Kangana Ranaut is a half-baked and comatose character that does not evoke any audience empathy.
Neither does the film as a whole. Bereft of intelligence and imagination, the purposeless screenplay makes heavy weather of stating the obvious.
The hackneyed tale of a Nagpada sex worker who dreams of making it big as a legit dancer is marred by insipid storytelling that hinges on outdated plotting methods.
The only dance numbers that the female protagonist performs in the course of the film are strictly of the routine Bollywood variety. No wonder her troubles never end.
Most of the first half action takes place in a brothel on what is supposed to be Grant Road, central Mumbai.
The place is littered with the most utterly risible figures, none more so than the androgynous Begum (Mahesh Manjrekar), who runs the whorehouse.
Among the visitors to this building is an ill-defined garage owner-cum-cricket coach (Kishor Kadam). He brings a group of college boys to the kotha to celebrate a team victory.
Cricket is quickly forgotten as one of the boys, Chandu Godbole (Paras Arora), 21-year-old son of a stern Virar professor (Vipin Sharma), falls for Rajjo?s charm.
Given free and regular access to the room of the brothel?s star attraction, Chandu, still wet behind the ears, decides to rescue her.
Before long, he marries the woman with the blessings of Begum. But in the world outside, the couple runs into all kinds of impediments, eventually ending up in rural Jeur.
Rajjo lands the job of a dance teacher in an NGO-run school for indigent children.
But the past continues to torment Rajjo. An old client, Govind Hande (Prakash Raj), hounds her, pressuring her to come out of matrimony and perform at his new dance bar.
Chandu struggles to make ends meet. Rajjo declares that she will move mountains to make him happy.
For the audience, however, the film offers no hope of salvation of any kind.
The rest of the dreary story lurches forward in a predictable arc and revolves around Rajjo and Chandu?s struggle to stave off the evil designs of the bad guys.
Way back in 1976, Govind Saraiya made a film titled Sajjo Rani. It had the underrated Rehana Sultan in the role of a courtesan?s daughter who manages to escape her mother?s fate.
Director Vishwas Patil, 37 years later, revisits the same narrative terrain and fails to come up with anything new.
Rajjo is a village girl who is sold into the flesh trade by her own sister and brother-in-law only because they fall short of the sum they need to buy an apartment.
Having done the deed, they vanish from the scene, leaving the girl to her own devices.
Sajjo Rani was a box office bomb, but a mujra from the film in Shobha Gurtu?s evocative voice ? Nathania ne hai Ram bada dukh dina ? is still remembered.
Rajjo is unlikely to fare any better but, unlike Sajjo Rani, has nothing that is half as memorable.
When Rajjo decides to dance one last time to save her husband?s life, all she can sing is a lacklustre Kaleja hai haazir khanjar kahaan hai.
The old-fashioned plot is completely at variance with the present-day realities of the Mumbai underbelly that the film seeks to project.
Rajjo is seriously deficient in the acting department despite the fact that the cast includes many an acclaimed actor.
The likes of Kishor Kadam and Upendra Limaye (both fine actors of Marathi film and stage) are saddled with roles that go nowhere.
A typecast Prakash Raj merely goes through the motions. The mechanical performance suggests that he knows he is fighting a losing battle.
Debutant Paras Arora is passable as the young boy who falls for a sex worker. He struts around with a lost lap dog look which serves to convey his confused state of mind.
Kangana Ranaut is the film?s weakest link. The spotlight is constantly on her, as a result of which her limitations, especially visible in the tentative manner in which she delivers her dialogues, are thrown into sharp focus.