Somewhere in Heroine, there is an honest story waiting to be told. Of the rise and fall of Mahi, a Bollywood actress. Of the trials and tribulations of being a celebrity in the film industry, and of how it unravels our heroine, both professionally and personally. Somewhere, there’s a great tragedy to be found in this tale.
Tragically, it’s the tale that unravels. Undoubtedly, the premise is delicious. Even if we let aside the fact that it’s identical to Madhur Bhandarkar’s own Fashion, it’s frustrating to watch this potential idea being let down by a film that does more wrong than right.
There’s such a clear graph to the story and to Mahi’s character, that it should have been very easy to follow it.
What you get instead is a muddled and jerky screenplay, a plethora of clichés, and visuals that are surprisingly tacky for a film of this budget. Clearly, there's a big difference between money spent and money well spent.
Take the setup, where it’s necessary to establish how big a star Mahi is, to contrast with her subsequent fall. Her fame and power is never once made apparent, beyond her own inside circle and fancy cars.
These are part of any star’s lifestyle, and there’s nothing special that sets Mahi apart. Similarly, when her career starts going south, you just have her whisky and cigarettes to depict the downward spiral.
This is neither an accurate indication, nor is it sufficient. You may be aware of her stardom or her fall because someone says it on screen, but this is not a novel you’re reading. It’s a film, and not actually showing it in any way greatly reduces the impact of her tragedy.
Stereotypes and caricatures abound in the film with the supporting act, and often make a mockery of the proceedings. Sufficient to say that Bhandarkar should, once and for all, stop having gay characters in his film.
They are laughable, and in poor taste. Ranvir Shorey’s depiction of a self proclaimed “art director” making “independent cinema” does equal disservice to filmmakers he’s attempting to portray.
The Shorey track is in fact so amateurish, you’re surprised it made the final cut. Given that all it results in is the fact that Mahi spent nine months of her career on it, and that nothing that happened in it otherwise has any contribution to the rest of the film, it’s almost pointless to spend twenty minutes on this track.
The dialogue is the final nail in the coffin, taking away any remaining shreds of credibility the film has.
Here and there are touches and signs of what the film could have been. Helen’s cameo as a constant reminder of what being a celebrity means, while a tad clumsily handled, is a nice touch. As is the underutilised secretary, played by Govind Namdeo. They both are reflections of Mahi’s own story, and you truly wish the film had more intelligent nuances like these.
In the title role, Kareena is in every frame, half of them in close-up. In hindsight, casting her as a diva was probably for the best of the film — she looks like a million bucks, and she gives it her all.
She’s the only bright spot in the film. That she’s Bollywood’s leading lady for so many years easily adds to her performance. It’s not always enough to pull up the rest of the film though, and you feel she deserved a better platform instead of a role that asks more of her cleavage than her histrionics.
If you were to just see the first and last frames of the movie, you’d think there’s poetry in between; clearly the promise was there. What you get is garbled verse, and it doesn’t even rhyme.