A cappuccino awaits its turn to be sipped by a girl and a guy. They have just returned from a multiplex after watching Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine. Let’s call the girl Ms. Audience and the guy Mr. Critic. Heck no, he’s isn’t a Masand, Sen, Guha, Chopra or Ebert, but all of a sudden, everyone has become a film critic, walking out of auditorium promptly asking, “How many stars?”
Well, it doesn’t take an Eisenstein to guess that Mr. Critic and Ms. Audience don’t get along well and often end up arguing over camera angles v/s golden bangles, story v/s soiree, screenplay v/s foreplay, inter-cuts v/s low cuts, direction v/s duration and so on. Sample this:
Critic: What a waste of time! Yet another Madhur Bhandarkar film!
Audience: So what did you expect? A Ram Gopal Varma film?
Critic: I fail to understand how many times will this guy remake Page 3?
Audience: But he also made Traffic Signal much before we applauded the slums and dogs. It wasn’t a Page 3, mind you. Nor was Dil To Bachcha hai ji.
Critic: Come on, Dil To Bachcha hai ji was a silly film!
Audience: Do you remember what you said after watching it? Madhur Bhandarkar should stick to doing what he does best – exposé movies. Now that he’s back to what he’s good at, you criticize him for making the same kind of films.
Critic: But there should at least be a story yaar…a girl called Mahi Arora is a big film star, she falls, and then she either hits back or goes into the oblivion.
Audience: Every story has the same formula – Conflict, Action and Resolution. Girl meets boy, they face problems, get separated and finally reunite.
Critic: So you recommend Heroine for an Oscar?
Audience: Heroine never made any such claims and can’t even afford to. Every film finds its audience and this one too will surely do that.
Critic: It’s only because of people like you that silly films garner 100 crores.
Audience: Yup, we’re not here to join the yawnathon in the auditorium for two hours and praise the same film to skies, just to appear intelligent.
Critic: In that case, you should appreciate me for surviving Heroine.
Audience: Like I said, every film finds its audience. Maybe you’re not the Target Audience. Why SMS all and sundry, asking them to avoid Heroine? What makes you think they won’t like it?
Critic: By doing so, I save their hard-earned money.
Audience: Hey don’t give me that b***, if people want to watch a film, they’ll watch it anyway. No critic can save anybody’s money. The only reason people read movie reviews is precisely the same why they watch films – entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Do you see the bigger dirty picture?
Critic: But Heroine has the same stereotypes of a Madhur Bhandarkar film…the same junior staff babbling, Page 3 party goers gossiping, gay designers and reporters with boneless wrists, and of course, a female lead character who is at the receiving end of every bad thing that happens in her field.
Audience: Well, it had those obvious trappings of a Bhandarkar film, but what about the juxtaposition of the current film actors with vanity van against the yesteryear actor who is kept waiting under an umbrella outside the studio?
Critic: That’s an exception, I must say.
Audience: Did you notice how well the director handled this contrast through two heroines of different eras? Helen essayed her role so well that you could actually see the sixties and seventies way of making films in her eyes.
Critic: I admit, it’s an exception, but it could have been explored further…
Audience: Then you’d say – is Heroine about today’s actress v/s actress of yore! And what do you have to say about the director’s portrayal of art cinema and commercial cinema through two actresses of different genre? – An exception, right?
Critic: Yup. Sahana Goswami was really good in her role as an art film heroine, but she seems to have been wasted.
Audience: There you go again, in that case you’d rue – is Heroine about art v/s commercial cinema? The character of an art film director is played to perfection by Ranveer Shorey has been shown so realistically!
Critic: He was really believable, indeed.
Audience: And did you notice that scene where he walks out of the production company’s office and affirms he wouldn’t bow to the corporate giants and compromise? – An exception again, isn’t it?
Critic: See, these are minor creative leaps that Bhandarkar takes but that doesn’t mean it’s a great film.
Audience: I don’t say Heroine is a great film, but tad better than the mindless flicks belonging to the ilk of 100-crore club. If there’s any villain of the film Heroine, it’s the budget. The award functions, castings, red carpet moments – are so shoddily executed. It seems the director spent his entire budget on Kareena Kapoor and the film’s publicity.
Critic: True, a subject of such magnitude should never be explored when you don’t have a big budget.
Audience: Right, and wait till a big production house steps in and makes a saga of Indian actress, where we get to see Bollywood spoof skids, top actors dancing to a silly tune at a party, and stars making a blink-and-miss cameos.
Critic: Heroine is no ‘Om Shanti Om’, ‘Luck by chance’ or ‘Zubeida’ for god’s sake!
Audience: Exactly, but it isn’t a no-brainer either! The film explores multiple aspects of the film industry, right from the importance of relationships in the film industry of yesteryears, to the art film vis-à-vis commercial films. Had it been made with a bigger budget and a bigger name and hired some good writers who can write dialogues sans the prefix of ‘Yeh film industry hai’, Heroine could have been the next best thing to happen in Bollywood.
Critic: Next big thing? Have you lost it or what?
Audience: I don’t get it when people argue so fervently over films. At the end of the day, Heroine is just a film! Remember what the character Ramadheer Singh said in the movie, Gangs of Wasseypur-2 on cinema?
Critic: Ah! That amazing line – Jab tak cinema rahega log c***** bante rahenge.
Audience: Exactly, whether it’s an ‘escapist film’ like Heroine or an ‘intelligent cinema’ like Luck By Chance, we both are what Ramadheer Singh would like to call us.
Critic: Did you just call me a….?
Eventually, Mr. Critic and Ms. Audience leave the café. The cappuccino of enjoying a film loses its steam and the froth of appreciating a filmmaker’s style melts in a brew of ‘holier-than-thou’ syndrome. The argument continues.