The Bollywood set
Director Madhur Bhandarkar’s obsession with “set people” he knows—the Page 3 set, the fashion set—goes a step further with the Bollywood set depicted, as in the earlier films (Page 3 and Fashion), in sweeping, simplified terms. It’s an industry he presumably knows as an insider, but the caricatures belie an insider’s insights. It is a dull and insufferably long story of a leading lady, Mahie Arora (Kareena Kapoor), told without wit, heft or imagination.
We meet Mahie at the peak of her career. In the eyes of the media and men, she is Bollywood’s enfant terrible. Everyone talks about how moody and impulsive she is. In her vanity van, Mahie is a nervous wreck. She is in love with a leading star of the time, Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal). Predictably enough, Aryan is married to a gold-digger, and has a child. Emerging stars threaten her position, while the relationship with Aryan is a cause of anxiety and depression. The clichés pile up: Bhandarkar, who is a co-writer of the film, blames Mahie’s mercurial temperament on a “bad childhood”.
So the film is Mahie’s journey through ugly break-ups, professional suicides and battles with the media, and her slow disintegration into a breakdown. The path to the climax is overwrought with redundant dialogues and scenes.
Bhandarkar’s characters are similar to real-life heroes and heroines, and he throws in everything we have heard and read about Bollywood. The fashion designer is, of course, homosexual, the casting couch exists, the image manager is a ruthlessly calculating woman, the film journalist is omnipresent, the seemingly most down-to-earth male star is actually a smooth manipulator, and the art house director is a stubborn, cigarette-smoking Bengali.
Kapoor’s performance is the film’s only redeeming factor, although there is no surprise to it. A few scenes are powerful—it is, after all, impossible for an actor of Kapoor’s calibre not to pull off simple dramatic scenes convincingly—but she is limited by trite dialogues and situations. Aesthetically, there is nothing arresting about the film. The cinematography and music don’t enhance it in any way. Rampal, Randeep Hooda, who plays Angad, the Indian cricket team vice-captain, in love with Mahie, Sanjay Suri, who plays a shrewd male star, and Helen, who plays a cameo as a heroine of yesteryear—deliver their performances like they are going through a dull drill. None of these characters has a singular edge.
Heroine is a damp squib. Bhandarkar’s years in the industry are obviously not the fodder for this film. We have heard this story many times before; he has no new interpretation.
Heroine released in theatres on Friday.