Heroine begins to show promise but ultimately crashes and burns – 2.0/5.0
By: Nikhil Arora
Heroine is a film that will suffer from being a Madhur Bhandarkar film. Bhandarkar stopped being a filmmaker after Chandni Bar (2001). He became a charlatan with superficial exposes of various professions from journalism to fashion, this man claims to have seen it all. Now he decides to tackle another one, which you may think he would know a lot about: the film industry. Sadly, the stuff he knows is hard to call insightful, can be counted on your fingers and pointed out in every film of his. The fact that our industry and audience considers him a filmmaker is a mystery to me. His films show utter lack of talent, a man who relies on manipulative sensationalism and this time he is given more money to make trash.
The film begins with Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor) being thrown out of a car, with gothic tears on her face, she says the word “bastard” and begins to smoke. You know you’re in the painfully torturous world of Bhandarkar’s cinema. The next half an hour is on autopilot. Aryan (Arjun Rampal) is a womanizing superstar. He isn’t in love with Mahi but never admits it to her.
I was prepared to watch another film of his which annoys and disturbs my intellect. His portrayal of women is extremely shallow, with the men being even more so. But then I saw a character, which IS shallow. Now, that’s interesting. I started finding Bhandarkar trying to break his mold, beginning to crack open the shell.The story isn’t a replica of his previous films. It isn’t a small town girl who comes to the big city and gets possessed by the demons of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Oh yes, if you don’t know already Mr. Bhandarkar says these are vices for any girl. He also looks down on homosexuality; this time there is also bisexuality. It isn’t just foolish, but also heavily shameful.
Whenever Heroine starts to become a good film, it quickly manages to become a bad one. Take for example a sub-plot involving an art-house filmmaker and Mahi’s confrontation with real acting. She also begins to find a friend. The conclusion of this strand of the plot is such a major cop-out as it falls under the curse of being a film by Madhur Bhandarkar. It wants to be a character study but it begins to falter as when it can’t handle the weight of it. A character that can’t differentiate between her personal life and her professional life. But when Aryan also gets advice from someone that he should learn how to differentiate between the two, it becomes a film with bogus ideas and incessant stereotyping of an entire field of work. This could have been a very good film about a girl who is hopelessly lost and has no idea how to redeem herself. If only it wasn’t stuck in Bhandarkar’s limited and idiotic vision. Not to mention, characters who frequently say “bastard” and “babes”.
I have always adored Kareena Kapoor. I empathized with her character mainly because she plays it. There is absolutely no harm in casting a star, a likable face to play a character which is unlikable. The part where I was really beginning to appreciate the film was when her character becomes repulsive. Priyanka Chopra’s character in Fashion (2008) had the audience rooting for her, Mahi on the other hand won’t find many takers. This is exactly why I did not hate the film. Realistically, India is not a country which embraces anti-heroes on screen. An anti-heroine is a long shot. When have seen films like The Dirty Picture, Fashion and even Raaz 3, where the women aren’t exactly goddesses. But even those characters had some way of redeeming themselves, in death or in turning over a new leaf. Most importantly those films had masala and were entertaining. Bhandarkar always resorted to masala as cover. His cover will finally be blown; it’s unfortunate that it will be done with this film and not Fashion. Heroine isn’t entertaining and the redemption is hollow and that’s probably the reason why the film would get bad word of mouth.
I may begin to sound like I like the film and if I did I would defend it by having an argument but I don’t. I like that the film doesn’t follow the run-of-the-mill trajectory of fame and then downfall. The film is largely about her downfall and I admit that I felt for Mahi in parts. Funny that the film has a scene with the poster of Citizen Kane (1941) in the background. A film considered an all time greatest. A film with an unlikable character and the people who knew him talking about who he was after he is dead. Funny that Heroine has three characters talking to the camera about the protagonist but here it looks like spoon-feeding where we are treated as gullible bait. Funny that Heroine strives for such high ambition but has nothing to show for it. In the hands of a gifted filmmaker, this would be a compelling watch. In the hands of a hack, it is an embarrassing debacle.