The Dirty Picture Movie Review by Khalid Mohammed

“All’s well. Or is it? At a key junction of an award function, she throws caution to the winds. A tinny trophy in her hand, the actress lambasts the double-triple-quadruple standards of the show business bosses. They make her dance in cleavage-popping outfits but are scared to admit that they get their socks off salivating over the strip tease. Ditto the audience, which throws coins at her screen cabarets but anoints her a slut. Wow.

She says it the way it is. Director Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture, is remarkable for creating a woman of spunk who’s had it with assorted skunks. Danger ahead: will she get away with her poison darts in an industry which believes it as sweet as strawberry tarts? Obviously, ‘inspired’ by the real life story of Silk Smitha, the Chennai-domiciled sex symbol – who is said to have committed suicide at the age of 35 in 1996 – here’s an audacious, auto-critical take on the unchecked exploitation of women in Cinemapuram. Presumably Chennai is the backdrop, but the tongue-lashing sex siren could belong to Bolly, Tolly or Hollywood. The story could be true of Marilyn Monroe or Jean Harlow, adored by the world, and yet compelled to go over the brink. Just think.”

“Luthria’s triumph is in creating a woman who’s steel strong, hypocritically regarded as morally wrong. Elements from the life of Silk Smitha have been used as clay to mould the character. Plus there are recognisable prototypes of the vulturous men who must have preyed upon her flesh. Literally. Doubtlessly, the fictionalised screenplay is bold but here comes the catch: it is also ridden with cliches, vulgarity and dialogue which is so bombastic that every second sentence is a punch-line, robbing the narrative of its reality bytes. Verbosity abounds.

Gratifyingly, the outburst on the award function stage, just before the intermission, at long last cuts to the chase. Before that there’s been a torrent of the trials and tribulations of the impoverished Reshma aka Silk (Vidya Balan), sleeping her way to stardom. An ageing hero (Naseeruddin Shah) treats her like a sex object, his cowardly writer brother (Tusshar, terribly miscast) breaks into cartwheels on the prospect of losing his virginity. And a gossip queen (Anju Mahendru, terrific) does this foxy number of admiring Silk’s guts and yet savaging her in print. Ho-hum, such is life dearies.

Critics and psst psst reporters are disparaged, naturally, the queen bee obviously modelled after yesteryear’s legendary Devyani Chaubal. Luthria, at no point, considers the fact that she could have been exploited by the top film stars, who desperately crave publicity but expect the media to overlook their lapses. Chamchagiri anyone? Be that as it may, post-intermission, the dramaturgy becomes intense, replete with twists and turns. So far, you’ve been wondering why on earth sequenes have been punctuated with the sonorous voice-over of an artsy-fartsy film director (Emraan Hashmi). Frustrated because of his flops, he’s a pesky mosquito till you understand why. Aha, he has been on a denial mode about admiring the rags-to-Scotch-swilling Silk.

As her descent into an alchohol haze begins, his attraction mounts, culminating in a belated, doomed love story.

Suffice it to say that the film’s trump card is the supportive stand taken for a woman who knows what she wants and will get it, never mind the rude shocks ahead. She is shown as incapable of love, because she has never received that four-letter-word from anyone, including her mother who shuts the door on her when she needs emotional sustenance.

Vignettes showing Silk’s no-holds-barred sensual display before film crews, retro-recreations of kitschy dance numbers and a fiercely competitive showdown with the new sex kitten on the block, are extremely well conceived and directed.”

“Of the cast, Naseeruddin Shah is bankably first-rate, often chivalrously standing back for the leading lady , the sign of a secure actor. Emraan Hashmi is correctly restrained.

Above all, the enterprise belong to Vidya Balan. She’s extraordinary: gutsy, consistently in character and unafraid of exposing her darker side. Here’s the kind of complex performance which you haven’t evidenced in years and years. This award-winning act bookended by her contrasting portrayal in No One Killed Jessica, reaffirms her as the finest artiste on the scene today. No contest!

You may have some issues with The Dirty Picture. Never mind because Ms Balan rocks big time. Cheers.”

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