Dirty Picture

Every now and then comes a movie that changes your perspective of someone who was alive, replacing that actual person in your head with the person who played the character. The movie makes you think, even as it makes you laugh.

Dirty Picture is one such movie. In the case of Vidya Balan, the second such movie. After Ishqiya, I cannot recall any other movie that has such an impact.

Did Silk Smitha live her life with the same careless attitude and rush that Vidya Balan portrayed? Did she score her roles through the casting couch? Did so many men influence her life or did she really forge the path she wanted by using whatever means was available to her?

My memories of Silk Smitha are vague. Not being a horny teenage boy in need for material, my interactions with her were restricted to recollections of adults discussing her latest movie. Then cable came and there were far more interesting, frothy Hindi movies to look forward to and the dusky actress never really made it into my living room.

Balan wears so many faces that it is hard to keep track of who she really is. The innocence of her face belies the sexiness of her body. The movie literally takes us through the years, as Balan puts on more weight, gains the look of someone depressed and addicted to alcohol and we never realise who the old Silk was till the movie gives us a quick and ruthless flashback.

Silk is perhaps the story of many women in the entertainment industry. Even if they were telling just the story of a single woman, there are so many truths through the movie.

Sex sells like nothing else does. (Else Katrina Kaif wouldn’t be a ‘star’ today, among others). Movies have one reason only – entertainment. True, there are intelligent movies, arty movies and all that. But majority of the movies are made to entertain. To make people forget what’s outside. To create a fantasy. And who better to create a fantasy than a woman with luscious curves?

Was she a victim or a champion? Even through her tantrums and diva-like attitude, Balan manages to keep you charmed and rooting for her through the movie. She changes so many faces… every nuance is calculated and poised for impact. Here is an actress who sinks into the role so deep that it is hard to differentiate the character from the actress.

The supporting cast seems rather demure and faded, even Naseruddin Shah. Or maybe Balan just overshadows them all. Surprisingly, it is Emraan Hashmi who has the most dignified role and carries it off with more elan than Tussar Kapoor in his polo neck shirts. Of course, it guess it would be bad PR for him if he didn’t manage to get a role even in his sister’s movie.

The questions in the movie are haunting… was Silk a true feminist? Or just a depressed female trying to live her life the best way possible. Of course, as the movie says, today’s shame is tomorrow’s hero. But the movie seems to portray her more of a hero.

It brings to mind a line I’d read in a book. “She was given three minutes onscreen and told to sell sex. She sold buckets of it.”

***

A friend wondered if Balan can actually make a comeback after this movie. Her weight gain, all the exposure and such.

Indian audiences are still quite hypocritical. They have grown to accept lead actress stripping for an item number but are they mature enough to see so much skin and then see her covered up and in another role again? Or will this be her defining moment?

We pretend to be respectable and honest, while what we really like to see is the other side. Is there more space for true actresses like Vidya Balan in our generation? The intelligent actress?

There are very few women in the industry who can carry off an entire movie by themselves. And she is one of them. Actually, I cannot recall another actress of this generation who can do that. Nope, not the Katrina Kaifs and Kareena Kapoors of this world. Nor Priyanka Chopra. But for most part, this is still a  male-dominated industry.

Female leads ‘retire’ after marriage. 44 year old men continue to play young boys. Comebacks of 40 year old women are scorned as leads, while men can make a comeback as a lead at any time. Movies are written for the men at any age, while the women are relegated to the background.

Even Hema Malini, who was supposed to be the queen, hasn’t managed a comeback. Or Sridevi. Or Madhuri Dixit, though I personally loved Aaja Nachle.

I certainly hope Balan can reinvent herself yet again. Would definitely want to see more interesting cinema.

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