Heroine

 

What’s with the tackiness, ‘babes’?

Pic source: Wikipedia

Madhur Bhandarkar made his name with realistic films like Chandni Bar, which got him critical acclaim, and Page 3, which got him both critical and commercial success. He then decided to focus on doing his brand of exposé films like Traffic Signal, Jail and Fashion. He had found a template, which seemed to work for him as well as his actors. However, there is this tackiness that is clearly visible in all his work, with the exception of Chandni Bar. Despite having A-list actresses doing his films and big corporate houses backing them, his films look like B-grade productions. Same is the case with the much talked about Heroine, which is tacky and in some parts, purely down-market.

Heroine traces the journey of a Hindi film star who struggles with the ever-changing power dynamics in the film industry, her limitations as an actor and perils of fame and the lack of it. Kareena Kapoor was possibly the best choice to essay the role of Mahi Arora, a film star full of insecurities. She lights up every scene she appears in and her real life persona of a star rubs off on the film. Her look, designed by Manish Malhotra is another highlight of the film; he makes her look great and from what I read in the papers, spent 10% of the film’s budget on her costumes alone! This possibly explains why the rest of the film looks tawdry and like a college project, put together by amateurs. The dialogues are cringe-worthy and half the film’s characters love calling each other ‘babes’! The gay characters in the film are once again reduced to over-the-top caricatures who either gossip or sleep around. Small time actors are given roles of superstars and big producers; and they all do not fit the bill. There are some interesting characters like Arjun Rampal who plays a superstar and Divya Dutta as a public relations queen (I will not call her a professional). Arjun suits the character as he has the screen presence and Divya acts well as a ruthless ‘brand maker’.  Randeep Hooda as a cricketer is also cast well but who did his hair? Then there are actors like Sanjay Suri, Harsh Chhaya, Lilette Dubey, Shahana Goswami and Ranvir Shorey in two bit roles along with a huge crowd of extras with garish make-up, outfits and over the top performances.

Coming to the story (Madhur Bhandarkar with screenplay by Anuraadha Tewari and Manoj Tyagi), Heroine is a mish mash of gossip that gets published in the entertainment section of newspaper supplements. From a popular 90s’ actress throwing wine on her husband’s ex to a model-turned-actress’ link up with a playboy cricketer; to the chappati counting, stingy wife of a big producer-director; there is enough masala for those who enjoy Bollywood gossip. However, there’s hardly any story apart from a string of these incidents. Mahi Arora, a successful star starts fading in her career and her personal life; she tries to resurrect it and then fails… haven’t we seen all this before?

Music by Salim-Sulaiman is just about ok and nothing that you’d like to play again after the film. Cinematography (Mahesh Limaye) contributes to the B-grade look and feel of the film, which required a lot more brutal editing (Deven Murudeshvar).

Watch Heroine only if you are a Kareena fan or Bhandarkar’s template is acceptable to you, otherwise there is plenty of good stuff in cinemas or on TV.

Barfi!


Of rainy afternoons, chai, fireflies & soap bubbles…

Pic source: Wikipedia

He loves her… she loves him too but is confused. She is practical, he is not. She cannot help but calculate; he doesn’t know that math… His love is in abundance and can only be cherished by someone who loves without thinking. Love, heartbreak, loss and a chance to win love back… That’s writer-director, Anurag Basu’s Barfi for you – it is beautiful, it is feel-good and thankfully devoid of any ‘screaming for sympathy’ antics despite differently-abled protagonists.

Barfi is a heart-warming film about a deaf and mute young man called Murphy aka Barfi, played by Ranbir Kapoor. His life may be without any sound but is not dark; he lives with his father who is a chauffeur in Darjeeling. He is mischievous and is aware of his good looks and charm, which he uses to impress the new girl in town – Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz). Then there is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the autistic grand-child of a rich businessman; she loves origami, dislikes getting her footwear soiled and is friends with their chauffeur’s son.

It is an unlikely love triangle that makes you sad one minute and smile the next. Ranbir once again delivers a brilliant performance, which exudes Chaplinesque charm and sincerity that we are used to seeing in him. I cannot think of another Indian actor who could have played Barfi and played better than him. Priyanka maintains restraint and communicates effectively what goes in Jhilmil’s mind through her expressions. Like Barfi, she also has little or no dialogue but you feel all that she does… kudos to the director for treating autism sensitively and not going over the top. This is also Priyanka’s best performance till date, right next to her character, Sweety in Kaminey. Ileana looks great in the second half and has some brilliant scenes… her dilemma is portrayed beautifully by the director, accompanied by a lovely track, ‘Phir Le Aaya  Dil…’ at one point in the film. She seems awkward in the first half of the film and with Ranbir shining bright, she looks a bit dull; but all that goes away as the film progresses.

Basu creates a special mood with the film that takes you back in time when life was simpler, childhood meant chasing fireflies and playing with soap bubbles. Darjeeling looks breathtakingly beautiful through the lens of cinematographer, Ravi Varman and production designer, Rajat Poddar adds the details to re-create the delightful 70s. Like its setting, the film moves at a leisurely pace, which is perfect; however a little bit of pruning in the second half could have helped (editing – Akiv Ali). Music by Pritam is first rate and his choice of singers is brilliant – from the fabulous versions of ‘Phir Le Aaya Dil’ by Arijit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj to Papon’sKyon’ and ‘Ala Barfi’ by Mohit Chauhan and another version by Swanand Kirkire (also the lyricist). The soundtrack not only goes wonderfully with the film but is a perfect accompaniment to spend a rain drenched afternoon, reading a book and sipping tea.

If I have to criticize Barfi, then I will blame the length a bit and the criss-cross narrative that complicates things unnecessarily. But all that can be easily ignored as this Barfi has just about right sweetness… So, watch the film and get hold of the music!