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Movie review: 'Heroine'

If it wasn’t for Madhur Bhandarkar, how would commoners like us learn about the inner workings of the film industry? You know, important things like how actresses have to woo superstar wives to be paired opposite their husbands or how their roles are edited out when they refuse to sleep with the leading man, or how actresses are such superficial people who need nameless pills and cigarettes and drink to keep themselves sane. The film also reveals how film reporters get paid international vacations just for printing a particular actress’ story regularly! (Need to find out how that works!)

Kareena Kapoor, Heroine

But 'Raaz 3' is just three-weeks-old and another saga about women paranoid about losing their youth, glory and men to younger women is just one too many. First of all, too many men call women ‘babes’ in this film. Actresses are also called ‘brainless’. And, that’s not the only annoying thing about Heroine.

The story abounds in film industry cliches – it is about Mahi Arora, a superstar and drama queen with over-active tear ducts. Mahi fits all Bollywood actress stereotypes: she smokes and drinks heavily; she is secretly seeing Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal) a just-about-to-be divorced superstar. For some inexlicable reason, instead of concentrating on her career, the successful Mahi wants commitment and goes on whining about marriage so many times that Aryan asks for a break. And he even throws her out of his car on a street. What fun!

Mahi wallows in so much self-pity – so many gulps of alcohol, pills and close shots of mussed up eye makeup and tears. Enter PR genius Pallavi (Divya Dutta) to straighten her out and encourage her to date cricketer Angad Paul (Randeep Hooda) and do an art film without make-up. Who would have thought of such a brilliant strategy! This time Hooda is ready for commitment, but Miss Mahi-Quite-Contrary decides that she wants to concentrate on her career and instead focuses on practising her lines as a prostitute and some hanky-panky with a co-actress. Hooda also gets pissed off and leaves her.

Large gulps of alcohol and self-pity follow. Then even the art film gets shelved. More tears. Nobody gives her work. More swallowing, more wallowing! It’s just an endless pattern. Mahi is not above a little manipulation herself. She won’t do any free appearance favours for her mom, she asks her boyfriends to recommend her for films and then gives them solid grief because they can’t or screwing up a rival actress’ career.

Like Satta and Fashion, Heroine is a typical Bhandarkar film aimed at showing the underbelly of an industry, high on sensation and scandal, but with very little story or even sense. It hyperactively narrates episode after episode of a Bollywood actress’ life without taking care to explain the whys and wherefores. For instance, why is Mahi so paranoid? Why doesn’t she have any friends? The words bipolar and broken home are bandied about. However because of lack of motivation, instead of appearing melodramatic and mixed up, Mahi appears to be a selfish woman always wanting her own way.

Heroine takes the vivacious, sparkly, irreverent Kareena Kapoor and smothers her into a dull lackluster protagonist. She tries her best though and manages to shine in some scenes. The art film track with co-actress Promita (Shahana Goswami) and alternative director Tapanda Ranvir Shorey are a bright spot. Bollywood lives in its own bubble; it obsesses over itself. Its workings and its people are ruled by their own narcissism. Heroine does nothing that we haven’t seen before – in Rangeela, Mast, and recently The Dirty Picture.

Too many real-life inspirations? Guess who...
Mahi gets thrown out of a car in the middle of the night, then walks into a police station but leaves without lodging a complaint.
Mahi is dating a cricketer and talks of buying an IPL team.
Mahi throws red wine on her boyfriend’s ex-wife.
When she hears of her boyfriend’s lovemaking scene, Mahi walks in on the sets in a huff and throws a tantrum.
Mahi takes on a cleanliness drive with a jhadu in hand
Mahi gets rival in trouble over fudging her birth date on her passport
Superstar Abbas Khan edits out Mahi’s scenes from his upcoming film and instead heavily promotes an item number in the film done by her rival because the former rejects his overtures
A Bengali art film director bans use of mobile phones on his sets and reprimands crew members by asking them to kneel down.
Mahi goes to a real red light area to do research for her role as a prostitute
An old veteran actress has to sit in the sun waiting for her shot. Apparently the production can’t afford a vanity van because the producer’s wife does chai-se-chapati ka hisaab. 

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