The Dirty Picture Movie Review: ‘The Dirty Picture’; Bawdy Balan’s Brilliant!
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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.
The brilliant thing about Vidya's performance is the fact that her oomph doesn't come from the skin-show the film indulges in. Of course, one isn't denying that there isn't a lot of that here, with eye-popping cleavage in every other scene. But sexuality is as much an abstract idea as it is a physical one. And the bravado and confidence that Balan displays in her time as Silk, is way more sexier than any sort of skin-show that she try out.
The film's other brilliant turn comes, expectedly, from the veteran Naseerudin Shah, who plays the sleazy Surya, the industry's top star during Silk's years. If Silk is sexy, then Surya is purely vulgar. Though he's kitted out in some ridiculous outfits (all in keeping with the film's '80s settings), the great Naseer puts in a superb performance in every scene, with the writer, Arora, choosing to give him some of the best dialogues of the film.
The other actors, though, put in more of a middling effort. Though Tusshar is charming at first as the gentlemanly Ramakant, he simply can't pull off the sort of seriousness that is required of him here. The addition of a moustache hardly helps in butching him up and the chemistry between him and Balan is quite tough to endure. Emraan Hashmi, on the other hand, seems content to play the narrator through the film. His Abraham, as Silk's detractor in chief, is an intriguing character, a director who hates her for cheapening cinema. Yet, the adversarial relationship between him and Silk hardly gets any screen time to develop. Instead, this is a character that the film is happy to hurry on with.
The film also picks up on some other industry characters from the era, featuring Anju Mahendru as a gossip queen journo called Nayla, a take on the late poison penned writer Devyani Chaubal, and Rajesh Sharma as Selvaganesh, a producer who mentors Silk. Though they aren't in focus, these peripheral characters add depth to the narrative, with notable performances from the players.
Though it's entertaining, The Dirty Picture is not without its failings. Though it is a raunchy watch, ultimately, Silk's story is a tragedy. However, Milan's single minded focus on masala until the penultimate scenes means that when the tragic end arrives, it lacks the gravitas that the situation needs, the punch of the moment dulled. The film also lacks depth in the way the characters' develop sometimes. While Silk's rise to fame is great fun to watch, the sudden, sermonising speech that she delivers right before the interval seems to have no real basis with hardly an evidence put up of the sort of treatment she gets.
The film also falters in the way it goes over the top at points with its dialogues. Sure, the punch-a-line writing is superb at the start, it eventually gets jarring that everyone in this world talks in filmy dialogues all the time, with hardly a scene or two that features a straightforward conversation between characters. Sure, the film's writing throws up more than its share of quotable quotes, '80s style, but then, perhaps, it's one too many.
The film's background score relies on two tracks, mainly. One is the film's own Bappi Lahiri-Shreya Ghoshal number ooh la la, which plays out in full glory once and is sampled at various points. However, the other number is the superb naku mukka, a Tamil rage from 2008 that sets Silk up as a pure force of nature, played every time she's about to do something drastic.
At the end though, The Dirty Picture is a vision that you cannot take your eyes off of. The sort of raw sexuality and eroticism that it espouses has been missing from our cinema for decades now. Indeed, in the time of the item number, Milan Luthria's latest is a study in classic sensuality. And with the brilliance of Vidya Balan front and centre in this affair, clearly, this is a must watch…!
Release Date : 02 December 2011
Banner : Balaji Motion Pictures Ltd
Director : Milan Luthria
Genre : Musical