Sex and substance rarely go together. The former unfailingly dominates the latter. So it’s a given that when a woman plunges herself headlong into an unabashed display of her femininity and pulls down her necklines to the eye-popping glances of deprived souls (not few in number by any count), one isn’t interested in looking beyond. What for?
Vidya Balan flips this seemingly cardinal rule on its head. By dint of her unalloyed talent, she makes you look up from that ‘Grand Canyon’ cleavage and pneumatic orbs, and into those eyes that speak tons in silence. Into those quivering lips, those bleary eyebags, at that lofty brow and pursed forehead and thereby into the insides of the tormented character she plays. In these rare moments of brilliance, she provides a sliver of substance behind sex. It’s like watching a kamasutra pose and being hit by a flash of light inside your head that makes you look beyond those coiled bodies and at the aesthetic beauty and the greater union beyond. To be able to do that in a Bollywood film is no mean feat. And Vidya Balan pulls it off with flying colours. In short, she makes the dirty SUBLIME.
She plays the unapologetic, fiercely ambitious siren with few scruples and a troubled past. Her character Silk ploughs her way through the dirty world of showbiz, on the way willingly succumbing to the lust of a superstar (Naseeruddin Shah), to the affection of an admirer (Tusshar Kapoor) and the hatred of an arthouse film director (Emraan Hashmi). And out of it all she emerges scarred and sexploited, a woman drowning her loneliness with alcohol, puffing off her failure with cigarettes, and finding love a little too late.
Though it’s a story with lots of skin, there’s sorrow at its heart. The dazzle of Silk’s rise to fame is offset by her spiraling decline as her life fall apart, piece by piece.
Director Milan Luthria and writer Rajat Aroraa have come up with a finely crafted film, but how one wishes they had put a leash on the dialoguebaazi. The characters speak in the language of Salim-Javed dialogues, often spinning out innocuous metaphors about things as mundane as a cigarette pack or a car-gear lever. Even the song where Silk and new siren Shakila compete could have been edited short.
These foibles apart, The Dirty Picture has its share of gripping moments. For instance, the night of subdued intimacy between Vidya and Emraan, or the sequence where Silk dances publicly on a car bonnet to spoil the party of a critic, or Silk’s incisive award-acceptance speech.
The performances by the male cast are spot on. If Naseer is every bit the cocky, smug, vain superstar, Tusshar is the bashful younger brother with a soft spot for Silk. Emraan plays a somewhat complex character of a man who doesn’t know if he loves to hate Silk, or hates to love her.
But taking the cake is the lady herself -- Vidya Boombat Balan. The character of Silk might have turned into an image of vulgarity if played by a lesser actor. Of course, there’s nothing great in stripping. Even Poonam Pandey does that. But it takes Vidya Balan to stir your thoughts, not just testosterone.