(Published in The New Sunday Express, on 23 September 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article1238585.ece)
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda, Helen, Mugdha Godse, Shahana Goswami, Ranvir Shorey
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Rating: 1 star
A car pulls up at a pavement, a woman (Kareena Kapoor) is thrown out. Weeping, she screams, “Bastard!” Then, she heads to the police station, where gaping cops gasp, “Arre, yeh toh Mahi hai na?” and indulge her as she weeps through the night. When she leaves, to face the media glare, flashing cameras and thrusting microphones at her, I groan. It’s obvious that the storyline will be insipid, the film will be populated by stock characters, and the actors will ham their way through most of it.
It gets worse. The film doesn’t stop at the token gay man. It’s teeming with them. And they all flutter their fingers like they’re learning to fly. More annoying are the aspiring and established actresses, who dig their claws into each other’s careers, even as they air kiss. Even the techniques are overused – people smile, wave and hug as they trade nasty comments. The only innovation in the film is camaraderie with an award-winning Bengali actress (Shahana Goswami), which leads to more intimacy than Mahi bargained for.
The film doesn’t offer any insight into the big bad world of Bollywood, except to assert that it’s no place for good people. The only character with any depth is played by Helen, who makes a guest appearance as a yesteryear actress, who speaks with cheery nostalgia of how the entire unit would eat together back in the day, when stars didn’t have vans, but would plonk themselves under umbrellas for sun protection.
It isn’t that all the actors in the film are bad – not by a long way. Randeep Hooda, who plays Vice-Captain of the Indian cricket team, has a genuine boy-from-Ludhiana-who-made-it-
big appeal. But the script gives him very little scope. He delivers lines like, “Tum log ko siraf istmaal kar sakte” and “Jab career hai, heroines pyaar chahte hain. Jab pyaar hai, tab career” with conviction and panache.
Arjun Rampal, who has made an admirable transition from model to actor, plays Aryan Khanna, a star whose affair with Mahi wrecks his home. His frustration with her tantrums comes through, as does his attraction, and later, affection for her. But the script doesn’t allow him to explore his character much further than as an accessory, and his screen time is too limited for him to make the character’s ambiguous feelings believable. He excels in one scene, where he remains completely silent while driving Mahi home, despite her attempts to provoke him into saying something.
However, the most damning aspect of the film is that neither Kareena Kapoor’s character nor her portrayal of it elicits our empathy. She sidles through the first ten minutes, and seems to cry for most of the film. There are occasions where she actually begins to act, but those descend quickly into melodrama, aided by cloying music.
The Verdict: Heroine is disappointingly run-of-the-mill, offering nothing new to an audience that has seen several movies of this ilk.