Bollywood Buzz

There’s nothing shocking about Heroine -2.0/5.0

By: Ankur Pathak

Madhur Bandarkar, famous for picking on industries to which he renders a single word title and then goes on to exploit every stereotype available in the catalogue, has victimized Bollywood in his latest film. Only that his version plays out as if Bhandarkar is a struggling outsider, familiar only with the popular trappings; having almost no insider gyaan.

Anyone who lives on an appetite of gossip magazines and follows the current of the Hindi film industry – which is much of the star-struck nation – knows the inherently sexist stream of Bollywood & its notorious ways of sexploiting heroines.

So rather than making Mahi Arora – the reigning titular superstar as someone who stands up to the bullies of the industry, Bhandarkar etches her character as a suffering kitten, a terrible victim breathing out of ventilators that come in the form of an unhelpful staff. To establish character background, things are plainly said – she had a troubled childhood, dysfunctional family et al. Throughout the unclear course of her career, she remains chaotic, confused, insecure, emotionally vulnerable and everything else that claimed the life of the star of the 70’s – Parveen Babi.

In love with her co-star, superstar Arjun Khanna, she invests a lot emotionally but gets kicked out of the car in return and yet, a few scenes later she is embracing him with absolutely no love lost.

How true that regressive character is in today’s times when contemporary actresses are as manipulative as the men is for you to judge.

Bhandarkar’s presentation of the media is laughably one-sided. Here the male journalists are gay and the press is rowdy. In one scene, Kareena is mobbed, her dupatta stripped apart and her car, thumped down.

One of the few characters that feel genuinely real apart from a fabulous cameo by Helen is Divya Dutta’s Pallavi – Kareena’s PR who is delightfully dispassionate in her job and consistently remains so without showing any sympathy. The sub-plot involving Ranveer Shorey’s indie filmmaker, although digressive, is interesting in the way it portrays the indubitable interference by studio bosses in the creative process of a relatively indie film. Randeep Hooda could’ve been an interesting element as well, but is left rather underutilized. This shows that Bhandarkar is interested in only highlighting the grimness of showbiz, without ever celebrating the incentives of it. At all.

The film could’ve stood out for performances but that is barely true. Passing with distinction for extraordinarily deadpanned expressions is Arjun Rampal who is a clueless superstar – the kind who doesn’t know how he got there. He looks so bored as if he is secretly frowning at the producers for calling the film, “Heroine.”

Kareena on the other hand pulls it off, but I still wouldn’t put her in the same bracket as Priyanka Chopra in Fashion. Probably because here, Bhandarkar’s direction doesn’t translate in her act, or he doesn’t direct her at all – leaving her in an open space where he assumes Kareena can interpret the contrived, complex part.

But popping tablets at will, and seeing the shrink doesn’t amount for a disoriented, bipolar and troubled star. The aching melancholia should be heartfelt and Kareena though looking every bit of a glam diva doesn’t wholly convey the mystique and aura beside the glamour.

Yet, the greatest despair of watching Heroine is its cautiously safe and superfecial approach. Entirely free of shock value and lacking in scandalous content, Heroine is Madhur Bhandarkar compiling a set of tabloid stories and spinning his own extensions that are only borderline scoop; barely anything revelatory.

His Heroine is everything that a contemporary actress doesn’t stand for. On the pretext of realism, Madhur occasionally dabbles in regressive sexism where his actress is forever dependent on her heroes, directors, secretary – and without their support, she not just collapses but worse, choses to let go of her identity.

This sort of submission by an actress is not only implausible but unacceptable as a concept. Actors devote their entire lives to be recognized, photographed, interviewed, stalked. They get obscenely paid because they aren’t salesmen selling products; they are the products. So despite the hardships of the field and its collateral shortcomings, has ever a reigning top star given it all up and voluntarily vanished in oblivion after succumbing to escalating pressures? No, it has never happened. And portraying Mahi Arora as a submissive character who is so insecure that she eventually becomes a defeatist, is doing great disservice not only to her, but also to her profession


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