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"There are three ingredients that make a film a success – entertainment, entertainment, entertainment," spouts Silk Smitha, the luscious lead character in Milan Luthria's The Dirty Picture. Though the words come from Silk, it's clear that it's an adage that Milan himself has taken to heart, something that is evident from his latest release, a semi-fictionalised biopic of '80s southern sex siren, Silk Smitha.
Milan's previous release, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, was also a film rooted in some reality, set in Mumbai's old ganglands and the struggle for power. Luthria had wowed audiences then with his ability to craft a gripping fictional narrative by bringing in everything masala in Bollywood, and yet not losing control of his story's non-fictional core. With The Dirty Picture, Luthria taps back into the same skill, relating a real story with all the raunchy trappings of a B'town potboiler.
Of course, a big reason for why the film works, is the fact that the story Luthria bases his film on, is that of Silk Smitha. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and it's, perhaps, a given, that the late siren's real story may have been infinitely more twisted and intriguing. However, the bits that Milan picks up on make for a consuming affair too.
The film relates the story of Reshma, a girl from a small Madras outpost, who runs away from home to find a life on the big screen. Though there's quite a bit of struggle to get there, Reshma's feistiness gets her there, turning her into Silk along the way, being given the name by her first producer. On her rise to stardom, she becomes the industry's first truly liberated sex symbol, sets the gossip pages on fire and even has affairs with the biggest names in the industry, only to realise it's not to be. Though it's a tragic story of a star's rise and fall, it is undeniably a raunchy, sexy, sensuous and sometimes, even a vulgar watch, that one simply cannot take their eyes off of.
But while it's one thing to tell a good story, to tell it well, you need the right players. And it's safe to say, it doesn't get more right for The Dirty Picture, than one Ms.Vidya Balan. Whether it's in gaining rolls of extra weight for her role, turning the heat on onscreen, or whether it's in mouthing double-entendres in Rajat Arora's dialogues, it's clear that Balan is living her role as Silk with aplomb. The turn is all the more stunning, given that before this, the talented actress has been known for muted, straightforward roles that keep her charming and conservative. To see her ooze such unbridled sexuality makes her all the more of a knockout. Indeed, it may have been said before, but for the first time, it's true – a voluptuous Vidya Balan sets the screen afire in each one of her scenes.