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FILM REVIEWS

HEROINE

The most uncreative and rutty writer-director team presents yet another Bollywood potboiler. Madhur Bhandarkar and Anuraadha Tewari are like kolhu ke bail. Their fascination with hearsay and Page 3 based narrative seems never ending. This time they deal with a subject closer home – the life and times of a Bollywood heroine.

Since the film was launched in Cannes in 2011, we hoped against hope that they would provide some new insight to film audiences by exploring the subject a little underneath the surface. They don't. Either they lack the capacity or the will to do it. What they deliver is a crude, routine, anecdotal, and extremely loud melodrama. And since his first film CHANDNI BAR, Madhur Bhandarkar has only been going downhill as an artiste, irrespective of winning prestigious awards and rewards.

It's the familiar story of a Bollywood heroine Mahi (Kareena Kapoor) spanning ten years of her career, with major events and upheavals occurring every two years. Mahi loves her already married co-star Aryan (Arjun Rampal). She clings to him, and egged on by one of her personal staff creates scenes, and hyperventilates boorishly in film parties. One day in a film's success party she pours red wine over Aryan's wife. The embarrassed and irritated lover dumps her and suddenly she becomes a pariah in the industry. Then comes in her life a laptop savvy publicist and public relations genius Divya Dutta, who devises ways to revive her career, getting her close to a Cricketing star Randeep Hooda. She trains her into the tricks of the trade, and finally Mahi manipulates her way to land a role in a major film. Since Mahi refuses to sleep with the hero of the film Abbas (Sanjay Suri), he makes sure her role is cut down to size.

After having been panned by critics and media for being a non-actress, Mahi starts work on an art-house film directed by an eccentric Bengali director Tapan Da (Ranveer Shorey). She gets friendly with her co-actor Shahana Goswami, and after being pulled up by Tapan Da for not acting realistically, researches her role of a brothel prostitute by visiting Kamathipura with Shahana. Later, both of them have a drug induced one-night lesbian stand too. She learns to act but Tapan Da has a fight with the film's corporate producer, abandons the project, leaving Mahi in the lurch. Mahi also loses her boyfriend Randeep who wants to marry her but she does not since she has to concentrate on her career. Mahi now does a low-budget independent film. In the mean time she has accidentally met Aryan and their relationship is revived. Aryan recommends her for the heroine's role in his upcoming 150 crore historical. The producer is not happy about it. The industry's rumor mill gets active, the news spreads that a rival actress has replaced her. Mahi has a face-off with Aryan, and somehow Aryan fails to tell her that he will never do the film without her, sending Mahi into a tizzy and in an act of desperation to make her low budget indie film succeed she does something unethical. The film succeeds but she is not happy. And the narrative takes its familiar 'two-year' leap and we see Mahi, walking the streets of Monte Carlo like any ordinary girl, refusing to be acknowledged by her name.

Every now and then in the film we are delivered nuggets of Bollywood reality in dialogues and remarks as if it were precious wisdom and vital pieces of hitherto unknown facts. But we already know these facts. We know that Bollywood heroines have IPL teams and sleep around with their ultra-libidinal leading men to further their careers. We know they are money-minded, jealous, and some of them even take drugs and have one-night deals with high net worth individuals. You don't have to make a 35 crore film to tell us all this with so much emphasis, underlining it with a thick marker every time. It's all there in newspapers, gossip magazines, and on glamour driven TV channels. You are expected to dig deeper, explore, and tell us an untold story using interesting cinematic elements. The subject offers a plethora of artistic opportunities, but like a fool you ruin everything with its unimaginative, mediocre, and incompetent handling.

Madhur Bhandarkar has wasted Kareena Kapoor by casting her in a hysterical and melodramatic role that lacks nuances. She is presented more like a wannabe actress, and a clinger, sans the aura and power of a top-listed star. If you have to see the stark difference between a bad and fairly OK direction, compare HEROINE with DIRTY PICTURE. Vidya Balan was certainly handled far more competently by Milan Luthria. Mahi's role is so crude and inartistic. It's badly developed and directed. You can neither empathize nor sympathize with the central character since it's a loud caricature, and a regular hearsay-based story.

The scene of Shahana and Kareena visiting a brothel in Kamathipura has some cinematic significance. It could have been brilliant if written and directed carefully. It is shot well, and the production designer has done a good job here. Later, when both the actresses are together at Shahana Goswami's pad, and feel attracted to each other, we see something interesting happening, thanks to Shahana's sensitive performance. Madhur pays his tribute to a tacky old ploy of Indian cinema, of showing two flowers bending towards each other to suggest the physical coming together of two lovers. This is how filmmakers of yore would deal with the stricter Censor Board Guidelines. He uses two long-stemmed wine glasses instead of flowers to suggest the lesbian fling between the actresses. It's funny yet innovative in a way.

Rajesh Kumar Singh