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Movie Review: Heroine

September 28, 2012

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Written and directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, Heroine stars Kareena Kapoor, and Arjun Rampal.

A Heroine — lost, lonely, devastated in Madhur Bhandarkar’s self-heavy jab at Bollywood reality.

While Sunidi Chauhan’s spicy number Halkat Jawani (set to music by Salim-Sulaiman), may entice one to jiggy to its beat, its inclusion as a staged-dance number goes against the dazzle of routine Bollywood dance-numbers, the film industry — and more importantly — against director Madhur Bhandarkar’s overall ambiance of Heroine.

Jawani sounds glittery, but it’s awkward, colorless choreography belittles its spectacle. And so, one really wonders: is it really that necessary to have an item number in a dry-drama of a Bollywood actress’ failing career, where soundtrack plays little more than a needless side-character?

Well, the simple answer is: No.

Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine is a toughie; but only because it chooses to be so on itself.

Seeping in counterfeit emotions and cramped mentalities, the revelations orchestrated by Bhandarkar aren’t dumbfounding to people who have access to internet and gossip shows on the idiot box.

Built on the notion of telling a reality-inspired Bollywood story, Bhandarkar manages to get wrangled up in his own deviations — especially in the film’s first act. However, once he gets away from the routine-meanness of Bollywood’s star-power (and the film’s penny-pinching sets), he finds somewhat solid-footing to establish Heroine’s core idea; Yes, Bollywood — or any other media industry — is the devil’s playground, run by malicious, unaffected people with floppy morals.

Kareena Kapoor, who plays the title’s heroine, is top-notch as a passionate, emotionally-jumbled starlet, who is contrived and wrangled within conformities of routine-Bollywood. Once a simple-town gal, as the film’s narration tells us, she’s now a depressed diva, who pops pills as if they were flavored cough-drops.

There are times when one can make out the parallels.

Originally set to cast Aishwariya Rai Bachchan, Kapoor is an apt (and better) replacement to the project; and perhaps as an unconscious result, the screenplay (by Anuraadha Tewari, Manoj Tyagi), just helped itself to some of her controversies. In midst movie, her character joins a low-budget “art-house/reality-inspired” movie on prostitutes, hangs up relationships (one of them with a cricketer, played by the always excellent Randeep Hooda) — and then there’s the infamous MMS scandal of her “make-out” (in the movie, it is with Arjun Rampal).

Right now, Kapoor is one of those few actresses who needs little screen-guidance. Nonetheless, she gets fine support from Rampal, Hooda, Shahana Goswami (of RaOne fame) and Ranvir Shorey, who plays Tapanda, the prostitute movie’s rebel (read: oddball) director in need of anger management counseling (in a scene, he grabs a phone from an assistant and smashes it to pieces, because it rang).

The rest of the films lingering star-cast, which include Divya Dutta, Mugdha Godse, Rakesh Bapat, Shillpi Sharma and Helen, get bit-parts of characters who sound like they have plausible, well-thought out backstories but didn’t get the necessary screen-time to tell us about them. And it’s a good thing they didn’t. Bhandarkar’s Heroine runs two-and-a-half hours sans grounded emotional significance.

While Kapoor’s mascara often runs over her face in most of her weepy-scenes of personal turmoil (and brilliantly acted as they are), they happen without gravity. As her character, innocent and ugly in her own way, devastates herself, the most we feel is a detached-pity. Like we do for a lost-puppy — the kind we forget about, 15 minutes later.