Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Indian Express Rating:**
The only reason to watch Madhur Bhandarkar’s films is for the way they go behind the headlines and show us the dirt and the hurt that’s usually brushed under frayed rags and burnished carpets. In his better moments, Bhandarkar has let us see the stuff that’s crawled out from underneath clearly, and we’ve overlooked the tackiness because it has added to the understanding of the subject. ‘Heroine’, Bhandarkar’s pass at Bollywood, does none of this. It remains a string of drab cliches, despite a strong performance from leading lady Kareena Kapoor.
Let me count the ways. The small town girl who comes to Bollywood and becomes a star (Kapoor). The commitment phobic male star (Rampal). The incessant search for love. The deep insecurities. The petty jealousies. The unscrupulous rival (Godse).The possessive star wives. The all-powerful hero (Suri). The vulnerable heroine. Wait, did I leave anything out? The famous cricketer who likes hanging out with filmstars (Hooda). The gay designer. The faithful secretary (Namdeo). The vulture-like media. The shrewish public relations type (Dutta). The bitchy celebrity hack. The swinging-both-ways promiscuity. The eccentric small-budget filmmaker (Shorey), and arty actress (Goswami). The neglected older star (Helen). And more.
‘Heroine’ has every single stereotype associated with Bollywood that we are familiar with, from our newspaper supplements, tabloid gossip, sensational TV programmes, fanzines, social networking platforms. And that is its problem, because we know too much about Bollywood. It is all-encompassing. Everywhere we turn, there it is. Nothing that the film does is shockingly new, which goes against it : some news channels have long outdone Bhandarkar in tell-all, show-all luridness, the very qualities that were the USP of his films.
The only way to hold us is to give us more. To turn the searchlight on the characters mercilessly. To incisively peer through the layers. To give us insight into the troubled, tumuluous lives of the protagonists. Instead, the director skims surfaces, and stretches everything interminably in his desire to stuff everything in. The result is exhausting, and, yes, depressing. I see Mahi Arora’s life unfolding before me for well over two hours, with her spending most of her time scheming, shouting, pouting and crying, and I feel very glum indeed.
Pretty much everyone, including good actors like Sanjay Suri and Ranvir Shorey, is turned into a cipher.The only one to somewhat escape this fate is Randeep Hooda, who gets in a couple of well-turned lines. The dialogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious in places (so many characters say “I can’t take it anymore” that I ended up wondering if that was the leitmotif of the film itself), and wholly predictable. So are the situations. We are left counting the shards of complexity in a few scenes. And in Kareena, whose portrayal of the hurt, vulnerable, needy Mahi is unvarnished enough to muster some honest moments. This is an actress who is not afraid to lay herself bare : not just in the expected body parts department, but below the skin. She needs a better film.