Review: Kahaani

Vidya Balan in Kahaani.

Pregnant, Hacking, Action Heroine

Rating: **

What is it about today’s Bollywood filmmakers that I really don’t understand? They think they’re too smart and can narrate a story as long as they have charming actors filling the scenes. And yes, pregnant Vidya Balan is charming much like the raunchy Vidya Balan from The Dirty Picture. But, this is the Vidya Balan you prefer. This is the one you’ve seen in Parineeta, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Kismat Konnection.

Don’t get me wrong, Kahaani is a good thriller. The motive for Vidya Bagchi to land up in Kolkata is clear, but the follow through is confusing. The motifs were enjoyable in Kahaani. Bringing a pregnant woman to Kolkata right during Durga Puja and then making her do almost anything to uncover the truth. The circumstances provided by Sujoy Ghosh, test the character really well, as she runs down a busy market with a huge baby bump, before slumping to her knees and then asking for soda.

After a plot point is revealed, the film moves from the “search for the husband” stage to “kill every extra” stage where the unwanted characters land up dead. This of course gives Ghosh the chance to pick up Hollywood DVDs and observe the different forms of assassinations. And yes, an assassin in the form of an insurance salesman was ironical. He enters the house explaining life insurance plans and then whips out his gun. You can figure out the rest.

Sadly, Balan’s movies have become stereotypic. She chooses female-oriented movies, and ensures that her role overlaps others. And then, she wins a National Award. The climactic inspiration from Taking Lives was well enough to put Balan in the short list of action heroines.

Kahaani is sure to impress scores of populations who are used to seeing Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar jump buildings and defy realism. Kahaani just didn’t do the trick for me.

Review: The Dirty Picture

Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture.

The dirty things women do

Rating: **

While most Hollywood-inspired Bollywood films revolve around a wafer-thin plot and break box office records through star power and a chartbuster song, some take realism as a way of life and weave an intrinsic tale around it. Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture does neither. It is neither a realistic film focussing on the life of Silk Smitha nor an inspired film. It hogs around taking glimpses from the lives of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and ends as if the film had nothing else to say. Of course, it didn’t have anything else to say. The film was all about the rise and fall of an exotic actress and that alone fits in the screen.

Can Vidya Balan act? She sure has the looks that was first noticed in Parineeta and then in Guru. Apart from Paa and the hysteric Ishqiya, was there any other film that saw her act? When you play an item dancer, sex appeal alone doesn’t help. You’ve got to be revolting and impulsive. Balan gets the impulsive part right as her dialogues are force-fed with expletives. Luthria has Balan cavorting around lush greens and a field of oranges exposing every part of her body. The guy seated next to me joked “this is a film that should be seen in 3D, not Ra.One!”

We also have Naseeruddin Shah who despite the dyed hair and makeup is easy to be spotted as an old man. We’ve had enough training spotting good old Rajnikanth, that aging cannot escape our eyes. For Shah, this is redemption of his youth. Did he desire to do a film with Smitha back in the eighties?

Tusshar Kapoor arrives as the actor who is least expected to act. All we want him to do is sit in a corner and admire Balan’s beauty. He does the same and often tends to his 80s-like moustache. Emraan Hashmi seems to be improving as an actor. His portrayal of artistic filmmaker Abraham is his best performance ever.

The naivety Balan brings onscreen hangs on to your mind like chewing gum stuck on a shoe. With actors taking the glam route thinking that’ll win them critical praise, I wonder how things are going to be with Bollywood’s glam dolls. Will they have to deglamourize to take the critical praise, or are they like everyone else giving a run for our money.

The Dirty Picture locks horns when it comes to feminine discrimination in cinema. This film believes that women like Silk Smitha chose to discriminate themselves for money, power and undaunted fame. The debate continues…