New Delhi: What does a director with an 'insider's perspective' do when he's already told the stories close to his heart in two of his earlier films? If you have seen 'Page 3' and 'Fashion', Madhur Bhandarkar's latest film 'Heroine' will feel like badly-managed time travel.
When Bhandarkar highlighted the circles of the moneyed class in Page 3, devoid of conscience and with cruel intent, it was hard hitting cinema. The drugs and alcohol and festering animosity made 'Fashion' a thrilling film to watch. But Bhandarkar gathers familiar scenes and sequences in 'Heroine', a film that Kareena Kapoor alone executes - sometimes through over-the-top hysteria and often through depressing silence.
But for someone who's known for narrating a realistic story through the eyes of an insider, 'Heroine' is laughably stereotypical and filled with dangerous cliches about the lifestyle of those who live in the arc light by day and its shadow by night. Whether by intention or purely inadvertent, Bhandarkar spoofs the industry he belongs to and leaves unsubtle trails to characters that according to him could very well be and possibly are, real.
What does a director with an \'insider\'s perspective\' do when he\'s already told the stories he had to tell?
Here are some stereotypes that had me rolling my eyes, five times a minute, inside the theatre. It could be possible that they actually exist, but their mannerisms are caricatures of the people they represent. I am solely to blame if this article reads like the very thing it sets out to mock.
Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk
1. The excessively smoking/drinking women who light a cigarette every five minutes to emphasize their utter coolth and swig daytime whiskey on the balcony on the 14th floor looking out to the mosaic of uncaring and busy Mumbai city life.
2. The Bengali character (in this case director), who is part eccentric, part genius and often petty, but has a terrible accent. He hovers on the fringes of stardom.
3. The disturbed childhood with parents either divorced or separated. They husband sleeps around while the wife bickers constantly, neglecting the child that shrinks into the folds of the drapes or into the arms of a kind nanny.
4. The affair with the married co-star/friend/colleague that ends in acrimony and the uncomfortable silence thereafter.
5. The small town girl with ambition. She arrives in a new city, loses her bearings, rises to the heights of success and has a shattering fall that convinces her to leave it all to return to the simple life she left behind at Hicksville.
6. The one dramatic meltdown scene. She takes an overdose of pills, tries to drown herself in alcohol and is rushed in the nick of time to the hospital where she rests, sporting an award-winning deglam look.
7. My one constant irritant is the way Bollywood portrays gay men and women. Directors need to learn that homosexuals are not eunuchs. The heavy mannerisms suit a time when little was known about the lifestyle of the homosexuals and lesbians. The arm movements, the sing-song nasal tone and the constant addressing of women as 'babes' is frankly annoying.
8. The dramatic party scene where women gather around and diss whoever is the softest target and possible competitor. Wine has to be either thrown at someone's face, poured on someone's head or tipped down at one go to reach optimum drunkenness.
9. The real and gritty performances always come from regional films where directors are on a shoe-string budget and stars are friendlier and more accommodating. The flimflam of Bollywood should not even dream of qualifying for the National Awards.
10. The gay-bitch friend combination. Of the two friends of the protagonist, one has to be gay, and the other a back-stabbing bitch who occasionally fraternises with the enemy.
11. The sham funeral scene where everyone is dressed in their finest whites. They hang around bitching about the deceased and his/her immediate relatives.
12. The sex tape. Oh the sex tape. The one in which the protagonists are making wanton love as the timer of a hand-held beeps to let them know that it is recording every move for future blackmail/leverage.
13. Sexual politics: The lecherous older men who nudge, fondle and shove at parties, quite unsubtly in exchange for lucrative career breaks.
14. The one sincere friend who gets kicked around a lot throughout the film and whose potential is only acknowledged when she leaves for her hometown.
15. The spineless hero trapped in an unhappy relationship with his wife. He wants out, he definitely wants the nubile and much-younger protagonist, but he's too gormless to just file for divorce or take a decision.