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Upperstall Review



The Dirty Picture


Hindi, Drama, 2011, Color

Imagine a make-up girl who became an extra and then the most wanted heroine of the early 1980s. Chronicling the meteoric rise and steep fall of the erstwhile screen sensation, the film is set against the colorful and entertaining backdrop of the fierce male-dominated South-Indian film industry of the 80s. The quintessential siren, Silk (Vidya Balan), knew her audiences, and it didn't seem like anything would stop the ambitious starlet, till it did, in the form of unrequited love. To the world, she was the queen of sensuality. But at heart, she was just another woman yearning for love in a ruthless world...

It takes more than smart one-liners and ample cleavage show to make a film and The Dirty Picture, supposedly based on Silk Smitha's tragic life, certainly proves it even if the disclaimer is a necessary evil and legal cover. But it also proves undoubtedly that sex sells and the promos of Vidya Balan in her low-cut dresses have done their job rather well judging by the sizeable turnout of mostly college kids at the theatre for a morning show, a lot more than even bigger films like Rockstar.

So yes, there is skin show and plenty of it, yes there are the witty one-liners and filmi dialogue-baazis (too much beyond a point), and yes, there is some shock-value but sadly, beyond all that there is little else of depth. The big, big problem with the screenplay (and the film) is that while looking at the life of a spunky performer who rose to the top being idolised as a sex object and who learnt to use sex to move ahead, the film too largely treats her character the same way except for the token scene or two. So we don't really get to see the woman behind the sex bomb or get into her psyche. Thus, we never feel for her or her exploitation in the male dominated Tamil film industry of the 1980s - especially so when her catastrophic falls begins and the film limps to its weak end. Consequently, the film is little more than a superficial take on the period and its lead character. It lacks any mature insight or subtlety and is treated in a loud in-your-face, obvious manner. One also wonders why the Tamil Film Industry of the 1980s has been chosen for a Hindi film as the events depicted don't seem to be something unique only to Tamil cinema of the period. Oh it's supposed to be loosely based on Silk Smitha's life. That's right! Anyway, the point is that the film is unable to relate its backdrop and events into any sort of proper context and the rise and fall of its protagonist is rather stereotypical and predictable.

Still, one has to hand it to Vidya Balan for daring to take on such a role and be willing to do everything for the role, including developing a sagging belly, adding much adipose and going Brandoesquely puffy and all. She gives it all and even manages some expert moments in the film but finally the script just defeats her as it objectifies Silk rather than humanise her. Still, Balan does raise the film a notch or two. Naseeruddin Shah's ageing superstar gets into caricature territory more times than one and it has to be said Naseer doesn't quite nail this one even though he comes off best amongst the male cast. But that isn't hard as Emraan and Tusshar are awfully bad. Anju Mahendru is not bad in an underwritten role that had potential while Rajesh Sharma deserves a special mention as the producer who launches Silk.

The technicalities are just so-so. The one song that comes off best is Ooh La La recreating some of the Jeteendra-Sridevi songs, the Saagar Jaane Do Na sexy song and other 80s song picturisations, although it has to be said these are heroine songs and not the dancer songs. Talking of the sound design, the motif used for Silk doesn't quite work and you wonder why it is there at all.

All in all, to put it bluntly, The Dirty Picture is body, body, all body and no soul!

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan





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