The ApunKaChoice movie review of Heroine. In his latest film Heroine, director Madhur Bhandarkar digs deep and wide into the immense Bhandar of clichés he probably accumulated doing the research to make yet another ‘shocking’, ‘hard-hitting’, ‘National Award-scooping’ exposé of the glam world, this time focusing his gaze at the film industry with all its debauchery, sleaze and glamour that glosses it. So the director, himself not alien to the controversies of dissolute kind, ferrets out one stereotype after another, in situations, in characters, in plot progression, and reduces -- rather stretches -- the film to an overlong, harrowing collage of clichés we stopped yawning at ever since Vidya Balan made a killing at box office with her cleavage and paunch and performance.
So how is Heroine different from anything we’ve seen in a surfeit of such films (The Dirty Picture, Raaz 3, Chal Pichchur Banate Hain and even Fashion) turning the lens inwards on the industry? Not much, but for the fact that Heroine is superficial, hackneyed, and hinges on hyperbole. Here’s how!
It appears that Madhur Bhandarkar has a template with blank spaces in which names, professions and backgrounds are altered from one film to another to cork out the same champagne from a new bottle. It’s the same cheque he’s trying to cash in again in Heroine by trotting out a story and a film the glimpses of which we’ve seen before in his Fashion, Page 3 and Corporate. So by the law of diminishing returns, Heroine should rank the lowest of the aforementioned films. It doesn’t, thanks to Kareena Kapoor who rises above the slipshod screenplay (Madhur, Anuradha Tiwari, Manoj Tyagi and Niranjan Iyengar…too many cooks) to deliver a performance that is earnest, sincere, powerful, and makes Heroine watchable.
She plays Mahi Arora, an actress smitten in stardom and love. If her unrequited love for a married superstar (Arjun Rampal) didn’t devastate her enough, her dwindling career, thanks to bitchy rivals and exploitative industry, drives her to the point of mental breakdown. The last gasp attempt to find love in a cricketer (Randeep Hooda) and resuscitate her career by working in an arthouse film with an eccentric Bengali director (Ranvir Shorey) is put paid to as well. Is Mahi doomed to oblivion? Will she find a new meaning to her life at the precipice?
Not exactly a novel plot if you know Bhandarkar’s oeuvre, but kudos to Kareena Kapoor for bringing out the complexities of the character, her insecurities, her vanity, her vulnerability, her arrogance and her eventual devastation despite an imperfect character sketch by the writers. It’s a role tailor-made to add a few more awards to her shelf, but may go unnoticed and unrewarded for the hash Heroine is.
Bhandarkar cherry-picks incidents from tabloid and magazine reportage and crams all of it in one film to paint for us a behind-the-scene sketch of the film industry. The stereotypes abound: sex tapes, casting couches, gay fashion designers, the starlet with troubled childhood, the rat pack, bitchy unscrupulous rivals, intrigue and manipulation. It’s all in there, mashed and served with songs that are strictly one-time hear, including the overrated ‘Halkat Jawani’.
Performances by the supporting cast, including Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda and Divya Dutta, are passable, but a sequence of Kareena with Shahana Goswami and another with Helen deserves a special mention. It’s in these stray sequences that Bhandarkar’s prowess as a filmmaker sparkles. The rest is mostly a wash-out.