Why Heroine is a let-down

The director, Madhur Bhandarkar, is really just a star of multiplex cinemas and disappoints with Heroine.

Zainab Imam September 27, 2012
I must begin by lamenting the fact that I blew off most of the Pakistan versus Bangladesh World T20 match to go watch Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine.

Yes, the emphasis is on Bhandarkar, not lady lovable Kareena Kapoor. I have been a Bhandarkar fan since Page 3 and, with Fashion, he demonstrated to an extent that he was capable of working with bigger names like Priyanka Chopra. However, the director is really just a star of multiplex cinemas and disappoints with Heroine.

When you make a film with a super-duper star like Kareena Kapoor, everything else must also match the glamour and grandeur she naturally brings to the film. Heroine fails to do so. The production value – considering a front face of perhaps Bollywood’s most celebrated female actor of the time – is pretty low. The writing is terrible and the script leaves a lot to be desired, including a real climax.

The film’s aura (thanks to some skillful publicity) was bigger than the film itself ─  something that doesn’t suit Bhandarkar whose previous films have not relied on publicity to become the hits that they are.

Mahi Arora (Kareena) is shown to be a superstar – though I found her only a struggling starlet, not a superstar – who keeps making one after another wrong decision. The pill-popping and alcoholism do nothing to establish her character as a reigning queen, because that is not the way any of the top-tier Bollywood heroines live. Mahi’s heart is in the right place but her mind, of which she doesn’t seem to have enough, is not.

The audiences should thank God that miss straight face Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was replaced by Kareena, who is absolutely fantastic in the film. I can say with certainty that no other female actor could have fit the role and done it as brilliantly as she has. With her harrowing eyes and ghostly white complexion, Kareena is every bit the lost soul in a cruel world that refuses to wait until she finds her feet.

While Kareena was supposed to bring the sex quotient in the film, it is Arjun Rampal who does. He doesn’t do much in terms of acting, but then again when has he ever? However, that’s never bad news for us women. Divya Dutta is great in her role as a shrewd public relations executive and, together with Kareena, adds a lot of colour to an otherwise bland film.

In the film’s defence, it is not a rip-off of Fashion as so many commentators have said pre- and post-film. There may be some glimpses but the films are actually quite different.

For one, Fashion was a lot bolder than Heroine.

In Fashion, Bhandarkar bared it all, but in Heroine, he seems a little more careful about not crossing certain lines. The film, for instance, has a character designed along the lines of cricketer Yuvraj Singh (played well by Randeep Hooda) but has no characters to portray the roles that the three Khans and Karan Johar play in the Indian film industry. A Bollywood film can never be complete without mentioning them as they are undoubtedly the most influential people in the industry.

There are also some great shots as Bhandarkar is very good with symbolism. My favourite part was when Mahi goes to attend the funeral of a senior female actor Shagufta Rizvi (played by Helen), whom she often goes to for solace, and media-men and women descend on her like bloodthirsty hawks. Her white scarf is snatched away and journalists think nothing of walking over it in trying to get a sound bite out of Mahi.

In the end, I will say only this: if you are going to employ the sort of publicity for your film that Karan Johar or Yash Chopra do, you must make sure that your film also has the look and feel of the grand dreamland that they create in their films. Otherwise, it feels like something is amiss and that’s what I felt as I walked out from the cinema after watching Heroine.


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Zainab Imam A journalist, on a hiatus to pursue a Masters in Public Policy at The University of Chicago. Gender parity advocate, urban policy enthusiast. She tweets @zainabimam (https://twitter.com/zainabimam) and blogs at gulaabjamun.wordpress.com
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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