When Kareena Kapoor’s ambitious magnum opus Heroine was unveiled, it made me wonder if the world (specifically the movie-mad Indians) were ready for yet another film about the big bad world of Bollywood.
In Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture, it was established that top movie icons are prone to raging alcoholism, and in the more recent Raaz 3, Bipasha Basu proved that actresses are an insecure, self-destructive lot who won’t hesitate to kill their younger rivals. So in terms of showcasing the grime behind the glitz and glamour, these films had it covered. We were shocked, entertained and educated in equal measure.
So what could director Madhur Bhandarkar bring to the table? Plenty, if his latest directorial venture, Heroine, is anything to go by. This film about a mercurival diva ticks the stereotypes attached to a fading siren.
As star Mahi Arora, Kareena Kapoor drinks and swears like a sailor, and is more tantrum-prone than a fussy toddler. But she does it all with gut-wrenching vulnerability.
The drama begins on a predictable note. Arora is an absolute train-wreck who gets dumped on the road by her superstar lover (Arjun Rampal).
But fortunately, she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. The fiesty Arora -- who lives, eats, sleeps and dreams movies -- bounces back with a vengeance, takes on a new lover (a star cricketer) and re-builds her career.
For those who are enchanted by Bollywood and its troubled stars, this film is delightfully voyeuristic as it takes you into their sexy-yet-shady world.
Bhandarkar’s usual crutches - just like those present in his earlier films “Page 3”, an expose on Mumbai’s rich social set, and “Fashion”, a swipe at the seamier side of modelling - are weaved into the drama. There’s that token gay best friend, pretentious, snobbish star wives with their over-the-top expressions and skirt-chasing married men.
Even whistle-inducing, dubious dialogue such as “In our world we are careful about who and when we open our zippers and lips to” and the seemingly profound “Fame makes you richer, but strips you of a lot of things in life” are introduced at the right intervals.
But what we didn’t see coming was the implied intimate scene between Arora and art-house Bengali actress called Promita Roy, played by Shahana Goswamy, in a Black Swan-style twist.
While the film belonged to Kapoor and her tearful histrionics, the men in her life did their jobs well. Rampal as the soon-to-be-divorced matinee idol may not have much screen time, but he leaves a good impression. Randeep Hooda as the suave cricketer scores big.
Bhandarkar entertains in a rather manipulative manner. His declarations that Heroine was 70 per cent real and based on some real characters in the industry invites a guessing game. Don’t be surprised if you are busy trying to figure out whether Sanjay Suri as a womanising super-star called Khan is a take on the real deal, or if the dialogue “If my career ends, I will join hands with a businessman and buy an IPL cricket team” is a dig at Preity Zinta’s career.
While the film’s first half is brisk, the second half meanders but manages to get its act together towards the end. There are some obvious loopholes -- such as how a top actress such as Mahi can be this isolated from the human race and reality -- but the weak links aside it’s a satisfying watch.