Get dirty with this picture

Those among us who have seen the cinema of 1980s would be familiar with the sensation called Silk Smitha. She broke conventions and arrived like a storm in the Tamil film industry and spawned many imitations like Rayon Revathi and Polyester Padmini (yes such names did exist). Though Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture is not all about Silk Smitha, there is no doubt that she is the force majorly driving this drama, inspired also by many other item girls who scorched the screen with their oomphs and sighs.

The Dirty picture is a tale of one such village belle Reshma (the link to Silk Smitha’s Reshma ki Jawani cannot be missed in the choice of name) who arrives in Madras in the early 1980s with dreams of being an actress. She loses her innocence in this big bad city and soon the simple and dusky Reshma transforms in to the next big bomb of the industry Silk, who sweeps every superstar off his feet. As she rises to the top, she leaves many hearts wounded, is unabashedly flirtatious and unstoppable like a forest fire. Feminists and critics pan her but she remains unfazed. Silk brings her own rule book to the male-dominated film industry. The men in her life – Superstar Suryakant (Nasseruddin Shah), his brother and writer Ramakant (Tushar Kapoor) and director Abraham (Emraan Hashmi) – have a love-hate relationship with her. Suryakant uses her to make his movies run and drops her when he is done with her. Silk uses Ramakant as a tool to avenge her insult with Suryakant. Abraham, who initially hates her, falls for her finally. But her arrogance leads to her downfall and the hypocritical industry is too eager to throw her out after having used her. Silk finds new competitors who are too eager to shed clothes and worse, the new heroines can show skin, do dirty numebers and still play the lead, without being called item girls. She slowly slides into anonymity, draped in her own silk and awaits her end.

The Dirty Picture is a wonderful attempt at cutting across the chauvinistic hypocrisy of the film-industry in India and the society in general. Milan Luthria pulls it off with aplomb and very carefully saves the movie from treading the path of titillation, which it could have easily fallen into. Never does the movie seem vulgar, something which even Raj Kapoor could not achieve in Ram Teri Ganga Maili or Satyam Shivam Sundaram, where the script had to take a bow before skin. The movie would have been toothless without the incisive one-liners of Rajat Arora, whose dialogues hit hard and are cheesy, humorous and thought-provoking all at once.
Nasser, Emraan and Tushar carry their roles as demanded by the script. Nasser’s Suryakant might remind you of some superstars of the Tamil industry who remained the lead heroes even past sixty and were known for their exploits among women.
Can one miss the music of Vishal Shekhar who lend superb support. Just their one Ooh la la is enough to pump energy into this movie. This duet by Bappi Lahiri and Shreya Ghosal keeps re-appearing throughout the film.

But this is a One Woman Show of Vidya Balan. She shreds the screen to pieces with a performance of a lifetime. This will not only be an important point of reference for her in her career but will remain a benchmark for a Hindi film actress. She drops all inhibition and gets into the skin of the character with utmost ease. See her transforming from the simple Reshma to Silk, who carelessly oozes out oomph at every turn, and you know you are beholding a wonder. Vidya has pushed her male and female contemporaries behind in running this show by herself and is the sole female superstar of the industry today.
The movie has its flaws. The love story between Silk and Abraham seems to be done on fast track. Compare this with the beautiful chemistry created in Khoya Khoya Chand (2007) between a director and an actress. The downfall of the star harks back to some images of Fashion (2008). The love-story, though brought in with a purpose seems to lack direction. Her dance-duel with her competitor Shakila was uncalled for and the song is tawdry. The second half stops this film from being great.
In an year of no-brainer blockbusters and empty vessels making deafening noises, The Dirty Picture is more than a welcome relief. The Dirty Picture will definitely be more than a film and is definitely a new age definition of sexuality by Vidya, who carries forward the baton from Ishqiya. This is one picture where you wouldn’t mind your hands getting dirty. As Silk says “Public watches movies only for three things – entertaintment, entertainment and entertainment”. The Dirty Picture is entertainment and much more.

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