Madhur Bhandarkar is eminently regarded for delving into the detailing of varied subjects, be it the gritty life of bar girls [CHANDNI BAR], the socialites and media persons [PAGE 3], the corporate czars [CORPORATE], the people hanging around a traffic signal [TRAFFIC SIGNAL] or the glitzy fashion industry [FASHION]. His movies are in a league of their own. His latest work, HEROINE, orbits around the journey of an actress, the glamour and glitz surrounding her career and the dark side of fame and eminence. Madhur is famed for presenting facts of various subject matters as if he were a man from within the fraternity. In this case, yes, he's an insider and knows accurately how the movie industry operates.
But first things first! The query that continues to consume cineastes ever since Madhur announced the film is, whether or not HEROINE is an extension of FASHION? FASHION itself was alleged to be an extension of PAGE 3, which was based on the lives of socialites, actors, models and members of the media. Sure, HEROINE, like FASHION, envisages the voyage of a woman [an actress here] and the different phases of glory and stardom. Also, like FASHION, there's a gloomy side too thanks to the desperate battle to stay put at the zenith.
Madhur's detractors may accuse him of over-sensationalizing or hyping up episodes to an implausible level, but that's just an individual's perspective. To me, Madhur's take on the Hindi film industry is bona fide and if you are an industry person you would agree that actors, generally, become prisoners of fame and get scared of losing it all one day. I'd go to the extent of stating that HEROINE would act as a revelation to a large number of aspirants who swarm the mega city, hoping to make it big in the world of glitz, without an inkling of the harsh realities that lie ahead.
Mahi [Kareena Kapoor] was a Superstar in every sense of the word. She was beautiful, famous, successful and affluent. Unfortunately, Mahi's inner world was in direct contrast to her outer life. She was prone to intense mood swings, was insecure, unsure and lonely. Mahi's only source of happiness was the all-consuming love for the reigning superstar [Arjun Rampal]. Mahi, unmindful of her career, was only focused on somehow getting her love requited and in her attempt to do that begins a journey spiraling downwards. Her career, her sanity and her life all at once go through a spinning twist.
Madhur treats the theme of HEROINE with extreme simplicity and unfussiness for the avid moviegoer to decipher. I am sure, the viewer would experience explicit contentment to witness the truth behind the made-up faces of the film world, the shadowy secrets that lie behind the enchanting veneer. The lifestyle, the betrayal, the promiscuousness, the inane tittle-tattle… all this and more is what is expected from a plot that covers the movie industry and it's all there in profusion in HEROINE.
Whether it's a sexual or emotional subject matter, Madhur has never cringed from telling the truth the way it is. Like his previous attempts, HEROINE astounds you with its brutal bluntness. Also, the director illustrates the heartrending and lamentable realities of the movie world brilliantly. The party sequence, in the first hour, is simply outstanding. Also, the politics behind casting in films is well illustrated here. The assorted relationships -- between Kareena and the two men in her life, between Kareena and her co-star Shahana Goswami and also between Kareena and her PR manager Divya Dutta -- are attention grabbing. The screenplay [Madhur, Anuradha Tiwari and Manoj Tyagi; additional screenplay: Niranjan Iyengar] is compelling largely.
On the flip side, although the writing borrows from reality and has ample shock value, the writers could've avoided a few episodes in Mahi's story, which seem unimportant. Besides, the track involving Ranvir Shorey and his film is stretched. Also, the writers have tried to cram too many instances/episodes in the screenplay, which only elongates the run time of the film. Moreover, the film focuses more on the lows than the highs. Had the writing depicted her stardom with the same zeal as the downfall, the impact of Mahi's fall from grace would've appeared more persuasive. One more thing: FASHION depicted glamour in abundance and one would expect an encore in HEROINE, since it talks of the movie industry. The emphasis is more on drama here. Yet, despite the hiccups, the writers ensure that the screenplay never loses grip, never loses focus from the core issue. Furthermore, the film gathers steam yet again during the closing stages, with Madhur handling the culmination with adroitness.
The soundtrack of HEROINE compliments the film wonderfully. 'Halkat Jawaani' is hugely popular, but for those who relish soft and soothing tunes, there're a couple of tracks that are well integrated in the narrative. The background score, also by this talented duo, is most effective. The DoP [Mahesh Limaye] captures the varied emotions on Kareena's face and also the glam quotient with dexterity. The dialogue [Niranjan Iyengar] are shocking and forceful, as per the demand of the sequence. The styling, especially Kareena [Manish Malhotra], is striking.
HEROINE is Kareena's film all the way and she delivers an award-worthy performance. It can be said without a shred of doubt, HEROINE is her most valiant effort so far. Apparently motivated by real-life episodes, this is a role not many actresses would have taken the peril of implementing. Kareena arrests the viewer's attention from Scene A to Z. The triumph and disappointment, the innocence and conceit…, every emotion, every sentiment is projected with sheer brilliancy.
The other characters in the movie get less screen space, but they are clearly etched nonetheless. Arjun Rampal is proficient and leaves an impression. Randeep Hooda is incredible in a brief, but significant role. The supporting cast is praiseworthy, but I'd like to make a special mention of Divya Dutta [in terrific form] and Shahana Goswami [very good]. Sanjay Suri is first-rate. Mugdha Godse is decent. Govind Namdev does well. Delnaaz Irani, as the journo, is effectual. Veteran Helen lends grace to the cameo.
On the whole, HEROINE is yet another hard-hitting motion picture from Madhur Bhandarkar. For persistently choosing women-centric themes, for consistently winning national acclaim and most significantly, magnetizing moviegoers in large numbers to view his cinema, the efforts of the maverick film-maker deserve to be lauded. Watch HEROINE for Madhur's imposing direction, for Kareena's superlative performance, watch it also for its fearless, inspiring and enlightening storyline divulging the scandalous realities of the movie industry. Try not to miss it!