(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 23 September 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/dirty-picture-version-20)
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Rating: ½ star
Here’s my theory on how Heroine was written – Madhur Bhandarkar closed his eyes, and did “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.
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.