Saturday, September 22, 2012


Gone Girl

Heroine is just the kind of film that was expected from Madhur Bhandarkar. He picks a subject, puts a woman at the centre and then proceeds to degrade her completely.  In the process, he also passes off broad generalisations as research, stereotypes as characters, silly lines as satire or profound truth, and some standard shock-value scenes.  He manages to get a top (or just one rung under) star, who probably believes he is her ticket to a National Award.

This time he takes up his own industry and shows that he doesn’t have much respect for it—everybody in the film is sly, manipulative, self-centred, mean and narcissistic.  All except two-- an old-style, white-clad diary-holding secretary, the type that doesn’t exist anymore, as managers, stylists and publicists have taken over the industry; and the other a Bengali art filmmaker who repudiates Bollywood instead of kowtowing to it.

Of course, there is some truth in what Bhandarkar portrays, but too much bullshit dilutes that. Then, his leading lady is bi-polar, alcoholic, had a problem childhood, has mother issues and massive professional and personal insecurities. In short, Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor) is a human recipe for disaster and keeps falling apart, while popping pills, smoking, drinking, seeing a shrink, whining and trying to cling on to a career at which you never know how she succeeded in the first place.

When she is first seen, she has been thrown out of a car by her married lover, ‘superstar’ Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal). Her career is already a mess, and to fight her way back in, she hires a hot shot brand manager Pallavi (Divya Dutta), who can get her in the news, but not into the A list that she so craves.

Mahi’s second relationship with a cricketer (Randeep Hooda) also fails, the art film she signs to turn from star to actress is shelved and nothing seems to go right for her. And the wolfish media is always snapping at her heels.

Bhandarkar puts in enough spot-the-star gossipy bits to amuse the audience—which actress fudged her passport to pass off as younger, which actress swept the streets for a cleanliness campaign, which actress adopted children, which one bought at IPL team, who had an affair with a married superstar, who is bisexual, who escaped by marrying an NRI, who came back with a reality show and so on.

If Bhandarkar had portrayed the industry as a shark-infested place, it would have been okay, he wasn’t expected to whitewash it.  If Mahi had been a normal girl changed and corrupted by her ambition, that would still have made for a more interesting story, but Heroine is mostly fake and superficial, with just some facts to make it look like an expose.

Kareena Kapoor distills all her talent, grace and beauty into a stupendous performance, and she lands up in a film that all but throws egg not just on her face, but that of the entire film industry.  It is possible that people get a thrill from seeing the all-powerful Bollywood as populated by pathetic and nasty people—after all Mahi gets her redemption by denying who she is. But it is a grossly distorted picture.


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