Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vidya Balan in 'The Dirty Picture'succeeds when she remains Vidya Balan

Milan Luthria did Ónce Upon A Time in Bombay'which retold the rise and fall of Haji Mastan in the Bombay underworld. Haji Mastan's role was played by Ajay Devgn and his nemesis, Dawood Ibrahim is portrayed by Emran Hashmi. The role of the film star who settles in Mastan's life was played by the edgy Kangana Ranaut. Luthria goes south to tell the story of one-time item girl -- the term was not invented then -- and vamp 'Silk' Smitha, who became popular, then fell off and committed suicide. There was nothing unusual about it, though the tragic note just could not be written off.

Ekta Kapoor seemed to have taken an interest in the subject, and Luthria has been asked to direct. Luthria tries his best to recreate the underbelly of the glamour world of films and he does it without much conviction and through the predictable stereotypes. Naseeruddin Shah plays the ageing south Indian film hero, which was the case till the 1980s. Then there is the role of the director who wants to be different, played well by Emran Hashmi.

This is film is supposed to be Vidya Balan's film because it is her portrayal of the heroine that makes this biopic the subject of interest that it has become. Vidya Balan as 'Silk'Reshma tries too hard through a greater part of the film to be the sharp-tongued voluptuous woman who wants to make her way up in the difficult world of film stars. Balan is too loud, too physical and too vulgar -- that is, her attempted vulgarity -- but it is all a put-on thing. Most importantly, Balan who cannot show sensuality of the raw kind goes overboard and fails miserably to show that. She ends up being a pale copy of Sridevi in some of the south Indian productions of Hindi films with Jeetendra as hero.

Kangana Ranaut shows some of the brittleness of a small-time successful actress in Önce Upon A Time In Bombay'. There was need for that brittleness in showing ''Silk'Smitha's role. Unfortunately, she is none of these things and when she puts on the act she looks very unconvincing. She is much too urbane, much too suave, and much too successful in her own career, to show the pain and the wrinkles of struggle and hard-won, frail success.

But in the last 20 minutes of the film, when 'Silk' tries to claw her way back and fails, Vidya Balan becomes her own self,a pretty girl slipping back into her plain self and feeling the pain of neglect and failure. As in Íshqiya', Vidya Balan is best when she allows her sensitive and delicate face do what it can without trying to put that bit of extra histrionics that she often tries to summon. It is the innocence of Balan's face that has greater dramatic potential than the acting she attempts.

This biopic could have been a powerful story, but Luthria fails because he never seems to have bothered to look closely at 'Silk'Smitha's life. At the beginning of the film the usual delcaration is made that there is no relation to real people, incidents and places, a strange thing to do in a film that sets out to portray the life of a star. The Tamil magazines and titles are shown as well as the 'Tamil' characters. But it looks more comical than real.

This is a film beyond the reach of Ekta Kapoor, Milan Luthria, Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah and Emran Hashmi. The ending scenes of the film do achieve a certain pathos which should have been sustained throughout the 140 minute-film. The dialogues are a little too witty and too clever by half to carry the film and therefore do not make sense.

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