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Heroine – Film Review

Film: “Heroine”
Starring: Kareena Kapoor , Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda, ShahanaGoswami, Ranveer Shorey, Govind Namdeo
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

Somewhere deep within the corroding flamboyance of filmdom,there is a tale of heartbreaking compromises and immorality tucked away from the naked, tearlesseye. Madhur Bhandarkar nearly gets to the nerve centre of that world, and then pulls back just before he’s really gottenthere.
“Heroine” is an intriguingly unfinished film – partly in the rapidfire mood of a game show and partly like an elegiac melody played gently on an antique piano with immaculate fingers. It lacks a centre, sometimes even a focusas it tries to cram in too many incidents, episodes, scandals, controversies and plain absurdities that are an integral part of Bollywood, so much so that the first hour or so gets suffocatingly airtight.
And then you realize towards the end, that the world of the superstar Mahi Khanna traps the star, makes her a puppet of success,traps her in a web of deceit and finally throwsher into a whirlwind of vaporous deceptions.
The closing moments have that gut-wrenchingelement which made Bhandarkar’s “Chandni Bar”, “Page 3″ and “Fashion” among the more sensitive dramas in recent times.
We see Mahi, shattered forlorn and bereft, trapped in a car surrounded by merciless television journalists. As the haunting backgroundscore by Salim-Sulaiman builds up to a shattering crescendo, Mahi’s hands fold together in a plea ofmercy. In moments our hearts bleed for Mahi.
God help those who are cursed with stardom. They first have to struggle to get there. And then they must continue to fight to cling to their place. And then, as Govind Namdeo playing Mahi’s quietly faithful secretary tells her: “An actress’ life-span is by its very nature limited”.
Not that we haven’t heard such wisdom on the show world before. The dialogues could havebeen far more powerful. Instead they try to shock with a casual candour that fails to ignite the scenes.
Kareena Kapoor in the best performance of hercareer so far, leads Mahi’s character throughthe murky labyrinth of ambition, rivalry and self-destructive tricks ofsurvival in the rat race. Though her character is inconsistent (suffering, we are told, from bipolardisorder or is it just the writer’s vagaries?) Kareena furnishes the heroine’s character with a rare vulnerability and an exceptional inner life.
In the film’s rawest moments when the star’s mask peels off completely, Kareena’s face shows that stricken expression of naked panic and abject solitude that one last saw in the performance of Tabu in Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” after her husband’s sudden death.
Stardom kills you bit by bit. Kareena bravely undertakes Mahi Khanna’s perilous journey from the top to the bottom of the star-ladder. This is Kareena’s most fearlessperformance to date.
Interestingly this is the second film in three weeks where a desperate falling star resorts to the dirtiest ofmeasures to retrieve herstardom. Raaz ki baat toyeh hai ki “Heroine” sidesteps all the cliches of the film industry evenwhile plonking the plot pat into those predictable places.
So does Bhandarkar’s film exaggerate the sham that underlines the shindig of showbiz? The answer is, yes. “Heroine” is guilty of gross excesses. There are too many unnecessary characters,specially in the first-half bustling around in clumsily stagedramp shows, awards functions and filmy parties claiming our attention.
Once Bhandarkar and his co-writers Manoj Tyagi, Nilanjan Iyenger and Anuradha Tiwary get over their look-we-know-showbiz-in-and-out fetish, the narrative finally settles down to telling us Mahi’s story vis-a-vis the two men in her life, the star Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal) and the cricketer Angad Pal (Randeep Hooda).
Though Rampal’s character reminded me of Arbaaz Khan in Bhandarkar’s “Fashion”, both are characters despite their uni-dimensional nature and are brought to life by two of our most interesting actors today.
At least three other stand-out performancesthat burnish Bhandarkar’s flawed butfabulous film are those by Divya Dutt playing Mahi’s ruthless business manager who occasionally surprises herself by feeling real emotions for the fast-fading actress, Ranveer Shorey as the eccentric egomaniacal arthouse filmmaker from Bengal and Shahana Goswami as Mahi’s Bengali co-actor inone of the film’s finest episodes when Mahi, in adefiant attempt to show she is star who can act, has a disastroustrust with realistic cinema.

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