'Heroine' - a recycled Bollywood stereotype

Kareena Kapoor at the 'Heroine' press conference in Dubai.

A haggard woman, highlighting kohl-smeared eyes and wet ruffled hair, stumbles into a police station, and seats herself in front of an officer, only to be escorted out by her uniformed agent, even before she can finish puffing her cigarette, into a crowd of prying journalists.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar does make an impressionable start to ‘Heroine’, but he’s unable to sustain it for 2-hours-and-30-minutes, leaving us muddled with clichés and caricatures.

His attempt at exposing the underbelly of the big, bad world of Bollywood is flawed with stereotypes.

There’s cut-throat competition, no doubt, but Madhur centres it purely around bitchy, married-men-snatching actresses and their feisty publicists, who smoke and drink in abundance, while lobbying for a large chunk of the fame pie.

It would’ve been fairly forgivable if he had left the insecurities and madness to his dysfunctional heroine – Mahi Arora. But, being a filmmaker unable to paint his characters in shades other than black or white, his other actresses are also manipulative and flawed.

The screenplay by Madhur, Anurasdha Tiwari ansd Manoj Tyagi, along with additional help from writer Niranjan Iyengar safely plays up an outsider’s perceptions of a Bollywood actresss. One minute they are being all naïve and righteous, and the next they are willing to take unmoralistic routes to attain glory.

It’s Madhur’s world of contradictions, with realism and fiction finding an insensible blend. ‘Heroine’ remains his most unoriginal take on the film industry, and uncovers, if anything, his imperfect, creative limitations.

Ironical that, in an industry dominated by men, Madhur chooses to portray them as spineless and strapped to the clutches of their commanding wives or conniving girlfriends.

‘Heroine’ is just Madhur’s unbalanced take on his heroines, with Sushmita Sen, Preity Zinta, Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra and Konkona Sen Sharma, among the few who get an unjust mention. Even his first choice for ‘Heroine, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan isn’t spared with a hint that political influence can buy anyone the state’s highest honour – Padamshree.

‘Heroine’ is nothing more than a glossy take on the pretty faces, with cinematographer Mahesh Limaye giving them a flattering edge.

There are even numerous unpleasant jibes at movie journalists, with incidents of writers being bought over, stories being plugged and writers appearing needy for gossip highlighted. And, in his world, every fashion designer is staggeringly effeminate. It’s only the critics that he has left untouched, and unharmed.

Whether it’s ‘Chandini Bar’, or ‘Page 3’, or ‘Corporate’, or ‘Fashion’, the trials and tribulations are similar, only the faces and the industry different. In fact, there’s even an unassuming bunch of actors that Madhur borrows from ‘Fashion’ for ‘Heroine’.

Mahi Arora is an actress who is unsure of what to do with her stardom, tumbling and falling in her relentless pursuit of “happiness”. She flints in and out of relationships, and movies at will. One minute she’s willing to sacrifice her career for her soon-to-be-divorced, superstar lover Aryan, and the next, she’s unwilling to marry her flamboyant cricketer boyfriend for fear of losing out on a glorious career.

And, through the ups and downs, she’s battling her own inner demons, finding solace, occasionally, in the company of a yesteryear actress, and her supportive shrink.

Mahi’s race to the top is laced with thrills and frills, with the lady manipulating and conniving her way to ensure she wins power and prominence.

If anything, Madhur’s movie can boast of some impressive performances from his supporting cast. Randeep Hooda nails the part as a Yuvi-styled cricketer, with a maturity rare in Bollywood. He’s unafraid to play into the hands of his hyper girlfriend, who is reluctant to be his anchor. There’s also Arjun Rampal, who despite being given a one-dimensional character, succeeds in lending it sincerity and charm.

Sahana Goswami, Divya Dutta and Ranveer Shorey are exemplary, and their efforts seem genuinely engaging, brilliantly camouflaging any attempt at reducing their characters into caricatures.

And, last but not the least, Kareena Kapoor doesn’t disappoint. She’s seen earnestly puffing few hundred cigarettes, glugging many stiff drinks, popping anti-depressant pills, crying copious tears, shrieking uninhibitedly, dancing lavishly and romancing passionately. She’s versatile, yet not honest enough to win over our hearts.

Although, Madhur and Kareena would have us believe that a fate of a film is determined purely by marketing geniuses, it might be a revelation when their own theory fails on them.