Movie Review: The Dirty Picture

The much awaited Milan Luthria's supposed biopic on Silk Smitha has finally hit the screens, and with Vidya Balan as the protagonist, do you need any reason to skip the show? Apparently not. Aside from a few minor niggles, this Dirty Picture is Ms. Balan's show all the way while offering rock-solid entertainment 80's style! In one of the earliest scenes in the movie, Reshma (rechristened as Silk later on - played by Vidya Balan) fakes an orgasm as a couple next door are lovemaking - seemingly an indication of more dirtier things in store.

As for the story, it chiefly traces the career graph of a sex-siren (notably Silk Smitha) in the 80's, who, as a village girl, runs away from home to later use her sexuality to climb the ladder of success and become the titillating dance girl in the South Indian film industry. This unapologetic and rebellious lass manages to grip the male audience by her seductive and provocative item numbers, which the period was well-known for. She has her string of affairs starting with a famous married actor (Suryakant - Naseeruddin Shah) and later his writer brother (Ramakant - Tusshar Kapoor) and finally to a director who hates the sight of her (Abraham - Emraan Hashmi). As her career gradually slides downhill, she eventually realises that she has lost her self-respect in the society, and dies a tragic death.

At one point in the movie, Reshma tells Abraham 'A movie is all about three things - Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment.' The director and scriptwriter of the movie (Rajat Arora, who has also done the screenplay and dialogues) seem to understand this fact very well and have succeeded in giving an out and out masala potboiler. The exploitative nature of the 80's film industry has been dealt in a skin-deep manner keeping the 'entertainment' quotient in mind. The first half is a smooth ride, showing the meteoric rise of Silk effectively. The struggles, the opportunity and her subsequent climb to fame have been captured well and so far there is little to complain about.

Post intermission (as always with many movies), things begin to falter when the makers decide to portray her downfall without an iota of seriousness. She puts on weight, becomes desolate and deserted when her lovers and the society shun her alike, faces competition from the new brigade of item girls, copes with a drinking problem, gets on the verge of bankruptcy when a film she produces bombs at the box office. But none of these have been merited the seriousness it deserves. The makers also take a neutral stand, by just depicting the life of one of the many such starlets who made their appearances in raunchy numbers but have had a very tragic and an isolated personal life. As Rajeev Masand says, 'The film is refreshingly judgment-free, but leaves you confused about your feelings for Silk in the end – is she a victim, or just someone who made her bed and had to lay in it?'

Also, Tusshar Kapoor's character feels out of place and seems forced (compulsion from the producer?) and the sudden change of heart from Hashmi's side, though portrayed quite well enough, isn't convincing. The song Ishq Sufiyana, in which Hashmi gets to smooch Balan, is another classic case of yielding to commercial obligation. Despite these minuses, the film deserves a watch simply for its leading lady (or shall I say the hero?) who gives a bold and terrific performance as Silk. In a role worthy of a lifetime, Vidya Balan, breaking stereotypes yet again, is completely at ease in essaying a character that mouths dialogues laden with sexual innuendo and one that requires a lot of unrestricted skin show. It takes a lot of courage and Ms. Balan seems to have had a whale of a time playing it. Luthria is spot on in choosing her and she does complete justice to the role, in an otherwise predictable story. Exerting herself physically as well as emotionally, she has breathed life into the character without getting a tad vulgar.

As Aniruddha Guha (film critic for DNA) says, 'She is fearless, giving an uninhibited portrayal of someone who enjoys adulation, but dies a lonely death. She is the fantasy of millions, but craves love. She doesn't get it. And Vidya brings all that -- the flamboyance, the sensuality, the heartbreak -- to her role.' Shashi Baliga, a columnist for the Business Line wrote: 'Vidya does all this, and more, with an arresting mixture of abandon and vulnerability, of arrogance and tawdriness. She makes Silk believable and likeable, even admirable, because she brings such a degree of honesty and joy to the role. She brings it dignity because she holds her head high with self-belief. She is the one factor that keeps The Dirty Picture from descending into vulgarity.' The other two impressive performances come from Naseeruddin Shah and Emraan Hashmi, who make use of their screen time effectively.

While the music score from Vishal-Shekhar is pitch-perfect, credit must go to Rajat Arora for penning some of the brilliant dialogues that bring the house down. One of the most genuinely witty line goes 'Holi khelne ka shauk hain, par teri pichkari mein dum nahin!' and the list is endless. The director, whose previous outing was Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, has recreated the 80's era quite well even if the tonal mismatch is jarring - the outlandish costumes and the equally bizarre movies that defined that period have been brought alive. Had the makers been more serious in the treatment of the subject, this film would have managed to rise above its dirtiness. Aptly titled, The Dirty Picture is very much entertaining and Dirty!