Lights, Camera, Inaction

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By Nishita Jha

MADHUR BHANDARKAR, a National Award-winning director, says Heroine is a “70 percent accurate” version of the truth about what goes on in Bollywood. If this is true, Heroine may have exposed some of the nation’s biggest scandals.

Heroine begins with a bedraggled Mahi Arora (Kapoor) thrown out of a car. Her mascara is smudged, and we know from past experience that this only happens when something really bad has happened (for instance, when Priyanka Chopra slept with a black man in Fashion). As she stumbles into a police station inhaling deeply on a cigarette, still unable to say a word, the inspector on duty asks her if she’d like to see a female constable, since like the audience, he is still trying to figure out why she is traumatised. A stranger appears, claims to be her secretary and drags her away without explanation. Kapoor is still crying. Does the police have different laws for film stars? And for their secretaries? To the chief of police: the nation needs an answer.

One of the reasons Mahi first flips out is when she discovers that her married boyfriend Aryan (Rampal) is secretly shooting a lovemaking scene one month before the release of his film. She storms onto the set and demands an explanation. He inhales deeply on his cigarette and says, “The director thought it was relevant to the second half.” Is this the cursory fashion in which scenes of passion are added to our cinema? Is this also why we are sometimes denied sex in films — because significant others show up and throw tantrums? To the film community: the nation needs an answer.

We are told that the reason Mahi’s behaviour has no coherent logic is because she has a bipolar personality. In one scene, her therapist suggests that she try to evolve a more centered core, when Mahi inhales deeply on a cigarette and snarls (Christian Bale style) that she needs her pills. Eyes rolling, visibly miffed, the shrink dashes off a prescription and hands it to Bebo. Do doctors prescribe restricted drugs to film stars? Since a journalist who knows everything about Mahi’s visits to the shrink narrates the entire film to us, have the terms of doctor-patient confidentiality been abused? To the medical community: the nation needs an answer.

Once Mahi’s main squeeze, actor Aryan walks out on her, she finds solace in hunky cricketer Angad Patel (Hooda). Busy with her career, Mahi is unable to make time for Angad when she enters her room to find him waiting. “When you don’t talk to me,” he whines, “I can’t play, it affects my performance.” Is this why India has lost so many cricket matches? Is this why the IPL came into being? To the cricket community: the nation needs an answer.

If Bhandarkar were a wittier man, he could’ve admitted that the reason he made films was because it’s more fun than weaving baskets

In yet another eye-opening sequence, Bebo comes home to find her mother simpering over her main squeeze, a politician from the ruling party. “I heard your film is a hit,” smiles the politico, “and by the way, I’ve nominated your name for a Padmashree.” I ask you, Sir, is this how the country’s most prestigious awards are decided? Do politicians have time to follow the box office? To the ruling party: the nation needs an answer.

Perhaps, if Bhandarkar were a wittier and more honest man, if he were a self-aware filmmaker, he could’ve admitted (like Woody Allen once did), that the reason he made films was because it’s more fun than weaving baskets. Instead, Bhandarkar has chosen his subjects — the media, the fashion industry, the corporate world, and now Bollywood — for no apparent purpose and left us reeling. Why did we watch this film? The nation needs an answer.

Nishita Jha is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka. 
nishita@tehelka.com

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