Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
The Dirty Picture: Vidya Balan, the hero
In one scene in Milan Luthria’s “The Dirty Picture”, the protagonist, determined to make life miserable for one particularly pesky journalist, stages an impromptu dance performance in front of the journalist’s house — gyrating atop her car and biting her lip suggestively. Soon, a crowd gathers, there are wolf whistles and catcalls, and the police are called in to control the chaos that ensues.
Wearing nothing but a skimpy, midriff-baring blouse, pants and over-the-top sunglasses, Silk, as she’s called in the film is all smiles, and it’s obvious she’s loving every moment. You could say the same about Vidya Balan in the film. She’s having a blast playing Silk and it shows in every frame of the film.
Like its subject, the tone of Luthria’s movie is slightly over-the top and tends to caricaturize certain characters, but the lead performance is so all-encompassing that you don’t mind these flaws.
Vidya Balan plays Reshma, a small-town girl who comes to Chennai (Madras in those days) to fulfil her desire to act in films. Confident of her sexuality and not averse to using it to get what she wants, she bares her bosom and much more, and revels in her success as audiences go nuts over her.
She begins an affair with superstar Suryakant (played by Naseeruddin Shah), the seemingly ageless actor (playing college boys even in his middle age), seducing him both off and on-screen.
Luthria seems to skim the surface of a lot of the problems for Silk’s downfall — alcoholism, a new younger actress, her love life, her loneliness but he doesn’t get to the bottom of any of them. The dialogue in the film, by Rajat Arora, is brilliant in some places, but corny in so many more, lending to the caricaturish nature of the film.
Of the rest of the cast, Naseeruddin Shah is the best among the three male leads; the lecherous look he gives Silk during their first encounter is pitch-perfect. Tusshar Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi are more laboured, especially Kapoor, who is so stiff and expressionless you wish Luthria had chosen a better actor for the part.
The movie is brilliant in the first half, as it chronicles Silk’s rise and her fame and the times that this takes place in, but towards the middle of the second half, Luthria loses control and it all comes apart at the seams.
That’s it about the movie, but what I really want to talk about is Vidya Balan. In an industry where people are so conscious of their image and brand, she is one actor who has managed to be conscious of her work. To do a role which requires you to show off your thunder thighs, jelly belly and act like a slut, but to do with it so much panache that you cannot help but stand up and applaud her, takes guts and style and so much more. Just for her and her courage and her outstanding performance, you should watch “The Dirty Picture”.