Movie : The Dirty Picture
Director: Milan Luthria
Starring: Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, Naseeruddin Shah
Women in Bollywood usually go to pieces in a very aesthetic way. At the most they wind up in bed with a black man, as in Fashion, to show how low they have fallen. Well, get ready for a force of nature performance in Vidya Balan. As Silk, she fakes an orgasm on screen, not once but twice; makes full use of a cleavage that seems all natural; and lets it all hang out literally, trying to get into jeans with her stomach hanging out in loose folds over the top. She has no shame, and it’s delicious.
It’s a performance that deserved a more satisfying film, but it doesn’t matter in the end, which by the way we know is coming from a mile away. The film industry belongs to heroes and that is quite evident even now–if the film hadn’t meandered into a tame love affair with a glossy song tagged on by the end it would have been truly inspiring. But Balan is riveting, whether she is being interviewed in a bathtub, covered in soap suds and little else, or whether she is draping one thunderous thigh on Naseeruddin Shah, or smearing cake on Tusshar Kapoor, or whipping herself into a frenzy in a song.
Balan submits herself to the role and you can see why it would be so disturbing. It’s a descent into addiction, which we know will be suicidal. Luthria could have made it less glossy but he gets a little caught up in the fashion of the 80s, the big cars, the big shoes, and the big hair. But his default nature is over the top, and I have to say I loved the outrageous dialogues, written by Rajat Arora, who ought to have been at work in the 80s. Balan attacks them like a hungry tigress. Use holi khelne ka shauk hai but uski pichkari main dum nahin. Tuning karenge tabhi toh band bajega. Arora has clearly worked on each dialogue until it evokes his own internal applause mechanism–aadmiyon ko sadhu banane ke liye auraton ko shaitan banana zaroori hota hai. Or this: popcorn jab udta hai to seedhe kadhai main hi girta hai.
Silk’s story is sad and all too familiar–a village girl escapes a no-life to come to the big city and work in films. She gets rejected repeatedly but she doesnt give up. She knows she has it in her to be a big star, but of course society doesnt accept her even when it exploits her sex appeal. Silk starts out as a rebel and ends life as one, losing way only when she begins to care about what the world has to say about her. And that is ugly stuff. She goes from one star brother to his brother, a writer, to a director-actor who hates her. But she loses her self-respect and that is what undoes her, and that is what is tragic to watch. She calls herself a marinated murgi ready for the tandoor. And clearly no murgi can enjoy the process of marination.
There are many moments in the film where you will catch your breath, at Balan’s sheer audacity of expression, verbal and visual. She dances on a newly acquired Maruti 800 (it’s the 80s, remember) to distract attention from a party she is not invited to. She kisses the brother to make the other one jealous. She eats sugar when is starving to keep herself going.
She may not be earthy enough for critics who have lusted after the real Silk in their youth. But she is all woman, and she is all sensuousness in a performance that is brave, bold and completely natural.
Balan is indeed a woman of our times, where public samaan dekhti hai, dukaan nahin. Silk is a character worthy of her.
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