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- Published 3.12.11
I have slept with 500 women”, he warns her. “Have you slept with the same woman 500 times?” she retorts, suggestively.
Silk. Unapologetic, unashamed, uninhibited and unabashed. Sassy and sexy, Silk knows that her body is her passport to stardom. She uses it to the hilt — sometimes to writhe shamelessly in front of the camera, sometimes to pleasure her leading man in the make-up room before a shot. Silk is as deliciously dirty as it can get.
Silk minces no words. She knows what men want, but she gives it to them with an acidic tongue. She hits below the belt — both literally and figuratively. She walks the walk and talks the talk. “Holi khelne ka shauk hai par pichkari mein dum nahin,” she ticks off a lecherous neighbour.
She bites her lips, stares suggestively, winks her way through, lays herself bare for an ogle fest — and revels in it — positioning herself as “entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”. Silk plays to the gallery — sometimes masochistically whipping herself, sometimes aping the moans of a woman in heat — titillating the frontbenchers who have bought a movie ticket only for her. She scoffs at women’s rights groups and blows smoke in the face of her critics.
Wherever she goes, she snatches the spotlight, drawing attention to herself using her body. “Jab ooparwale ne zindagi ek hi di hai toh dobara kya sochna” is her philosophy of life. When a lover wants to introduce her to his parents, she cheekily asks him what his dad’s age is!
But Silk is a steel magnolia, with a woman’s heart beating beneath the heaving bosom. A small-town girl with dreams of shining on the silver screen, Reshma is willing to do all it takes to become Silk. She slips easily into the hyperbolic and loud cinema of the ’80s, where formula ruled and form was rubbished. She has producers eating out of her hands and the biggest superstar of the time can’t wait to get into bed with her, but she craves for acceptance beyond the attention and adulation. They make her dance in cleavage-popping outfits, but refuse to acknowledge her in their social circles. The very men she controls under the sheets shy away from making eye contact with her in public. Like someone says in the film, one doesn’t know whether to brand Silk a “bazaari” or a “bechaari”. Silk becomes a victim of fickle relationships and fleeting fame, her downward spiral coming as quickly as her meteoric rise to the top.
Vidya Balan revels in the celebration of Silk. A brave performance, if there ever was one, comes from the actress who lets go of any baggage attached to image and the line that a Bollywood heroine often has to toe. This is a performance of unrestrained oomph.
Even when she knows she doesn’t have the hour-glass figure for it, there is no holding Vidya back from celebrating her body — and gleefully giggling at the effect it has on the men surrounding her.
The Dirty Picture had every danger of falling into the bracket of cheap and exploitative cinema, but director Milan Luthria — not-so-loosely basing his film on the life and lust of southern siren Silk Smitha — makes sure that even when his leading lady is leading salivating men along with the drop of a pallu or the bite of a lip, she never slips into sleaze. When Silk opens a can of worms at interval point warning those who shun her that she will continue to make one dirty picture after another, you marvel at the power that Vidya as an actress has over the audience.
Unfortunately, Half Two isn’t as engaging. Though he slips into Bhandarkar mode, Luthria is unable to breathe as much life into Silk’s gradual decline into drink and drug. Like Silk’s career, the second half flags and the climax isn’t as hard-hitting as the rest of the film prepares you for.
But this is nitpicking in an otherwise must-see film. Naseeruddin Shah, playing ageing superstar Suryakant who makes a grab for anything in a skirt and swears by formula films, turns in a first-rate performance in lechery. “Film mein behen daalo… usko izzat do… aur phir izzat loot lo!” he triumphantly suggests to a budding scriptwriter.
As Abraham, an intellectual filmmaker who spurns the over-the-top cinema he is surrounded by, Emraan lends good support. But his transition into the formulaic hero he has smirked at through his career grates and his sudden attraction towards Silk — almost to the point of obsession — looks forced.
Tollywood man Rajesh Sharma slips effortlessly into the role of Silver, the queenmaker who facilitates Silk’s rise and then helplessly witnesses her downfall. Tusshar, playing an aspiring writer mesmerised by Silk, is the only weak link in the cast, standing out like a sore thumb.
But all that is taken care of by the woman in the middle. The one reason why the acting ratings on this review touch a nine. The one reason why you need to rush into The Dirty Picture this weekend. Vidya Balan, there is only one word to sum you up… Bombaat (fantastic, in Kannada)!