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NANDINI KRISHNAN
Cinema Scope

Dirty Picture, Version 2.0

23rd Sep 2012

Heroine

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

Starring: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda

Here's my theory on how Heroine was written – Madhur Bhandarkar closed his eyes, played "Inky Pinky Ponky" on a roomful of gossip rags from 1960-2012. He then tore out random pages about troubled heroines, meshed them together, glued the gaps with his ubiquitous gays, hard-boiled agents, catty media hounds, and bitchy rivals. Throw in sex tapes and a lesbian moment to titillate, and you have a caricature of Bollywood, replete with cheesy dialogue.

Where's the "insider's perspective" in reproducing the same tired story any film on film has told? Worse, when you use the same stereotypes? Bhandarkar goes out of his way to show us everyone in the film industry drinks, smokes, and has sex. This time, a film-journalist narrator guides us through the story of Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor). Broken home, bipolar disorder, box office flops, sordid affair(s). Wait, what's new? Failed adoption, clash with lover's wife, bina makeup day, MMS scandal...oh, new, you said?

Kareena Kapoor, playing the eponymous character, is present in almost every frame, and seems to have no clue what to do with her screen time. She spends a good chunk crying, smoking and stumbling in a (presumably) alcoholic daze. She divides the rest between throwing things at people and feeling herself up. For foils, she has a bunch of nondescript friends, most of whom flap their hands about madly to prove they're gayer than Paris. For sex, she has Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal), whom she illogically accuses of using her. For masochism, she has Tapanda – Ranvir Shorey trying hard to lampoon a Bengali art-house filmmaker with a schizophrenic accent.

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Kareena Kapoor spends a good chunk of her screen time crying, smoking and stumbling in a (presumably) alcoholic daze.

The only relief to this display of shoddy acting comes from unexpected quarters: Helen as a yesteryear star who is now a "character actor", and Arjun Rampal, who takes on the slightly negative role he's executed well in many of his films – a man who rates his work above almost everything else. Rampal has shown promise in the few good scripts he's had, such as Rock On and The Last Lear, but he has little to do here. Randeep Hooda, who I've often felt is an excellent actor stuck in bad movies, has such terrible lines even he can't make them work.

The film meanders to a limp end, with jumps in time that only serve to convince us the filmmakers have literally lost the plot.

The Verdict: Heroine could be a poor remake of Dirty Picture, with a little less flab on the actors and a little more on the storyline.

Scouting for attention

Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis & others

Maybe it's the serious expressions of everyone in the Bishop household; maybe it's the fact that a home run military-style, complete with a loudspeaker to announce meals, shouldn't house so many slobs; maybe it's because the misfits in the film are always neatly turned-out. But from the word go, you're laughing at all the wrong times in Moonrise Kingdom. Yet, it seems the film demands that. Couched in a soft palette of pastel shades and delicate hues, it forces us to confront cruelty, loneliness, and compromise in a fantastical world that feels strangely suffocated by reality.

It's 1965, and we're on an island that appears to be populated only by the characters in this film. Our guide is an eccentric narrator (Bob Balaban), who pops up every now and again with reporter-on-site style weather updates, reinforcing the idea that we can't help but imbue the forecast with significance vis-à-vis the lives of the characters.

The film is loaded with contradictions. Solemn occasions look ridiculous, and ridiculous ones solemn; characters don't die when you expect them to, and die when you're sure they won't; children display their maturity when adults get petty. And all of this is infused with the innocence of a fable. Yet, this is a dreamscape where even intelligent kids will stick their fingers in electric sockets, where we sense the frustration of some characters when others insist on conforming to nonsensical rules.

With stylised moves, minimal dialogue, and quirky music, the film embraces the bizarre. Try this exchange: "Does it concern you that your daughter's missing?" "That's a loaded question." At its simplest, Moonrise Kingdom is a growing-up story – of Sam (Jared Gilman), of Lucy (Kara Hayward), of Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton), of Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). At its most complicated, it questions the meaning of love, comfort, responsibility, morality, friendship and family ties.

I doubt there's ever been an ensemble cast where everyone has so much to do, especially when the kernel of the story is the approach of adolescence, and its accompanying restlessness, uncertainty and curiosity. Pragmatic issues like custody are raised by a wacky character known only as Social Services (Tilda Swinton).

The delightful mix of the impractical and the sensible, so reflective of the movie, is best illustrated by the contents of a runaway duo's luggage. Indeed, there are moments when we wonder whether the entire film may be a daydream, especially when we find out where it got its name.

The Verdict: A charming film that makes us nostalgic for a time when we could escape into stories, when our imagined worlds seemed more real than our daily lives.

 
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