This appeared in the Asian Age today.... reactions mangta! Your mini-reviews welcome!!
Dirty is as dirty does….
I grew up during ‘dirty-dirty’ times, when if every thought and deed wasn’t clinically sanitized, sterilised and declared ‘clean’ by society at large, it was deemed filthy, depraved,perverted, ‘ghatiya’ and ‘neech’. After watching this year’s hottest and most controversial film at a preview, I confess I remain a little confused, the morning after the night before.Had I watched a 21st century morality tale?Or a clever, manipulative movie that manages to stay a hair’s breadth away from unadulterated porn? What was the film trying to say once the heavy breathing, heaving and shoving got done? Was some ‘statement’ being made? Or was it just ‘entertainment, entertainment, entertainment’ ( an annoying line that gets repeated in the film twice over, in case it was missed the first time) Ekta was looking for? Either way, it doesn’t quite work. For, the most ‘shocking’ aspect of the movie is the absence of a story. Perhaps, there wasn’t too much material to work with. Silk Smitha’s life began and ended a bit too abruptly ( coitus interruptus as a simile wouldn’t be entirely out of place) for a rich narrative to be spun out of the skimpy material available. If the director was out to make some sort of a comment on the hypocritical society of the 70’s and 80’s, he may’ve succeeded to a limited extent.It was indeed a society that thrived on voyeurism in private but condemned sexuality in public. But, unlike his earlier ‘Once upon a time…” which traced the creation and rise of the dreaded gangsters who controlled Mumbai during the same time-frame, ‘Dirty Picture’ looks pretty one dimensional as it tracks the phenomenal if all-too-brief dazzle of a semi-porn ‘Southie’ star, whose thunder thighs spoke a language of their own. If men in the audience masturbated to Silk’s erotic and blatant gyrations way back then, the scenario is entirely different today, when nobody blinks or cares about on screen copulation, frontal nudity, pelvic thrusts, lip locks, off-colour jokes,double entendres, simulated sex and more. In such a blasé scenario, one wonders why a Vidya Balan would want to undertake such a high-risk role at this stage of her career? Kyon, Vidya , kyon?
I have a soft spot for the incredibly talented Balan. I admit feeling highly protective towards her. Not that she needs ‘protection’. She is smart, sensible and sure of herself. So sure as an actor, that she has boldly, even recklessly gone, where her contemporaries wouldn’t dare. God knows what her compulsions were when she signed up for ‘Dirty Picture’. But after seeing nearly all of Vidya ( ummmm… there’s very little left to the imagination) on screen, it makes me wonder whether her courage will be enough to salvage what could follow in this brutal business, where a carefully constructed,fiercely guarded and lovingly nurtured ‘image’ can get battered after a single wrong move.Of course, Vidya had already prepared the ground and broken through the mould with her overtly sensual performance in ‘Ishquiya’. That had won sufficient laurels to establish her credentials as an actor ‘who dares’. But sucking Arshad Warsi’s thumb suggestively in’Ishquiya’ and almost ‘doing it’ with a long, black, snaky whip during a dance sequence in ‘Dirty Picture’, ain’t the same thing, honey! The camera almost violates Vidya’s body, which has been ripened like a plump, juicy peach for the role. It’s the closest anyone has come to believing a lifeless object ( camera) can commit rape. A lesser actress would have diminished these lewd scenes, making them nothing more than clips from a ‘blue film’ or a ‘pondi’ as porno films were dubbed then. Vidya manages to take the raunchy content several notches up on the strength of her personality. But what about the all-important image, after this? There is a telling line in the film when a character says, “After a woman shows audiences everything, what is left to sell?” Vidya must have thought it through before agreeing to ‘show everything’. For, it is also Vidya’s awe-inspiring cleavage and not just her rivetting acting alone that leave a long-lasting impression. One expects a first class performance from Vidya given her caliber. No surprises there. But nobody suspected Vidya had such tantalizing boobs!Since her breasts virtually play an independent role of their own in the movie, it’s pretty hard not to stare at those perky bouncies – there they are, sticking out aggressively in practically every frame.You are expected to remain fixated.
Watching the movie with an informed filmi crowd, it was obvious, that the ‘in jokes’, insider gossip and dark secrets about how the film industry functions down South, were instantly understood and chuckled over. But will others ‘get it’? Will they even bother? Or is the main idea to keep the audience salivating, leering and possibly jeering? Was Silk really a closet feminist behind the tinsel nappies and satin nighties? Is Vidya telling us to look within and bond with our inner dirty selves? Does her thundering speech on society’s double standards serve a higher purpose than the message delivered so graphically by her thunder thighs? Heaven knows! For now, it’s okay for Vidya to lap up the attention , wink at cameras constantly, bite her lower lip, stick out her tongue and talk dirty. It’s all for a good cause. A new genre is born – ‘Rassam Noir’.
By the way, there are a couple of fellas in the movie, in case nobody noticed. Naseeruddin Shah is brilliant as ‘Surya’, the self-obsessed, lecherous superstar. He gets the best lines, too, which he delivers with a delicious sense of irony. Each time a lackey gushes, “You are a genius, Saar,” Surya smiles smugly and says, “It can be such a curse.”
Vidya richly deserves an award. But so do her very expressive boobs. A separate one.
What I am worried about is will audiences accept one of our most talented stars if she gets to keep her clothes on in future projects?