The Dirty Picture review

Kunal Guha

Cast: Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Tusshar Kapoor

Directed by Milan Luthria

Rating: ***

Many will argue that this film is filthy, lewd, sleazy and every other word that conveys the same. But since it's based on a character who embodies all these adjectives, it only ends up being a deliciously dirty tribute.

Based on the south Indian dancing diva and actress, Silk Smita's lustful life, 'The Dirty Picture' paints a concupiscent portrait, complete with bouncing love handles, blouses that resemble the barricade at the Metallica concert in Delhi (visible but unable to contain) and dialogues that are as clever as they are cocky. But a film about an A-grade dancer of B-grade repute can't really boast of cultivated conversation, right?

The film takes us into the life of a small-town girl, Reshma (Vidya Balan) who speedily escapes to uptown Madras to live her celluloid dreams. After being turned down time and again, she manages to tease the camera lens and accidently lands a dancing role opposite Superstar Suryakant (Naseeruddin Shah) with her new name, Silk. But Suryakant is only comfortable working with those who make him comfortable in the dressing room and that Silk knows just how to.

Following several happy endings in the dressing room, Silk's career graph slides up like a python on amphetamine. As she grows in popularity, her fans grow, well, while watching her 'thumkas' on the big screen. All is well until Silk realizes the need for a real relationship. She voices her concern to Suryakant, "Raat ko barah ki sui ke tarah chipke rehte ho, aur din mein che ki tarah?" But the middle-aged superstar has his own philosophy, "Jawaani taste karne ke liye hoti hain, waste karne ke liye nahin." This doesn't add up but then do you really care?

The playful Silk is later seen playing mischievous kitty with Surya's refined brother, writer Ramakant (Tusshar) who is charmed by her mere presence. But Silk is boisterous about her sexuality and her misguided fame leads to roaring arrogance, followed by her decline. Somewhere between her descent and the end, Abraham (Emraan Hashmi) a director who has recently swung from arty to farty films, gives in to Silk's smooth arms and his bitter feelings for her become like delectable dark chocolate.

Clearly, Rajat Arora's winning dialogues will make you sit up and say, "She didn't just say that?!" I mean how often does a sex symbol get playful enough to say, "Holi khelne ka shauk hain, par teri pichkari mein dum nahin!" The only letdown here were the forced love angles especially that of Abraham whose hatred and love for Silk, both seemed misplaced.

Vidya is scrumptious as the imperfect and unrestrained Silk, while Naseer is convincing as a superstar out to play shepherd to every newcomer. Tusshar may have dropped his surname for the credits but that hardly undermines the fact that he's been cast in his home production, again. Emraan's character gives itself more importance than you or anyone else does. Luckily, his presence is limited and tolerable.

Reflecting on any period of Indian cinema will mean treading on unintentionally caricature. This is because the fundamentals of cinema and society evolve and the success mantra of the past will seem like flop recipe today. A dialogue in the film provides one such stereotype, "Iss film mein kuch alag karo. Behen ko izzat do, aur phir usse utaaro." A pure piss-take on Indian cinema, circa 1980s.

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