Fashion is Madhur Bhandarkar's 'realistic take' on the fashion world or so one has been led to believe. However, the film is as superficial and hollow as its subject matter is supposedly meant to be behind all the glamour. So, what you get is a largely unimaginative, clichéd and plodding film that fails to involve you, move you or provide you with any fresh insight of the Indian Fashion industry whatsover.
Bhandarkar keeps harping on the amount of research he does for each film and that is a good thing for few filmmakers in mainstream do their homework. But then he fails to sift his research matter effectively to cinematic dictates, wanting to include each and every aspect of his raw material. In fact, he goes a step further here from his earlier films by highlighting how 'hard' he works for each film. He casts himself as himself at a party and then cuts to two models looking at him as they talk about him being there to research a film on fashion. Really!
The biggest problem of the film is in its choice of its central story ie Priyanka Chopra's track. Meghna's story is not particularly interesting and fails you draw you in. Meghna's coming to Mumbai and becoming a super model is much too pat. At very stage the solution to her problem is too simple and all the people around her only too helpful. And in no time she is a successful supermodel dethroning the current diva, Shonali Gujral (Kangna Ranaut) Yeah right... To compound matters, neither is her subsequent fall from grace and final redemption totally convincing. In fact, if Bhandarkar had concentrated more on Kangna Ranaut's story, Fashion might have been a better film. It is this story that hits home a couple of hard hitting truths about the fickle nature of the glamour industry and has the ups and down to engross you. When Meghna goes through what Shonali has gone through earlier, you only get a sense of déjà vu but don't feel for her. That is Fashion's biggest flaw. In fact, not just Shonali, even Janet's (Mugdha Godse) track is more interesting than Meghna's. Maybe Bhandarkar should have either stuck to Meghna's story letting us see the fashion industry through her experiences or he should have given equal weightage to the stories of Meghna, Shonali and Janet. Here, he plays up to the star system and Priyanka Chopra at the expense of the other two stories and finally at the cost of the film.
The other big problem with Fashion is its length. The film meanders on and on for 2 hours and 40 minutes. One overhead a fellow audiece member saying maybe they didn't pay the editor so he cut nothing! But more than the film editor, the film needed to be edited at the script stage itself. Though he prodes himself on being a realistic filmmaker, Bhandarkar succumbs to the filmi side in him. For instance you know the police inspector will call Meghna just as she is about to go on stage. Bhandarkar further falters here as in true Hindi fillum style, he stretches and extends the moment to breaking point as people ask Meghna to move on with the show and then zap! The lights come on and she walks on stage. Expansion of time is fine but make it believable.
On the positive side, the Mugdha Godse - Sameer Soni track works quite well especially as Bhandarkar treats it without bowing to obvious melodrama. Nor does Meghna's love story have a typical ending (Thank god for Mausam (1975)!). In fact, when not getting morally bound with middle class 'filmi' values, Fashion works quite well but unfortunately, Bhandarkar chooses to bind his central character with them. When squeaky clean and full of her small town morals, Meghna easily becomes a super model and once successful, when she lives by her own terms and takes to smoking and drinking and what not, she ends up destroying herself and so must redeem herself.
The performances help the film rise a notch or two. Priyanka Chopra gives it all she's got and admittedly this is easily one of her better performances, but good as she is, she fails to rise above the script. That her story is the least interesting of the three doesn't help. Kangna Ranaut comes up with the performance of the film. Though having shades of her earlier work in Woh Lamhe, she is spot on and has commanding screen presence. She manages to make you feel for her as she is humiliated and forgotten by the fashion world except as a story. However, when she opens her mouth, especially to speak in English, you cringe. This is something she has to work on though it has to be said the stilted dialogue she is made to mouth in the film doesn't help either. Mugdha Godse makes an impressive debut confidently holding her own in the film. Sameer Soni, Kitu Gidwani (nice to see her on screen after a while) add fine support while Harsh Chhaya and Ashvin Mushran overplay the oh-so-gay designers. In fact, that's another problem. The treatment of the gay factor is typically filmi more to induce laughs rather than anything else. Arjan Bajwa is so-so but Arbaaz Khan, however, is wooden and miscast.
Technically, one expected far more from the film right from Nitin Chandrakant Desai's Production design. There was scope to make the fashion shows far more spectacular and innovative. The camerawork is neither here nor there, neither glossy or slick enough for the fashion shows nor earthy enough for the 'realistic' scenes. The costumes, so integral to the film, are also disappointing. Salim - Sulaiman's musical score is adequate and for once their background score is not deafingingly loud. But if one hears any more sitar strains for the so-called sad portions of the film... Incidentally, what were those stock shots of Paris? It just looks like some tacky video stock shots pasted into the film.
All in all, the film is a disappointing and tedious watch and comes to life but sporadically.