In his 13-year-old career, Madhur Bhandarkar has won accolades basically making one film. It is a film that tells us a woman on top in a man's world will invariably suffer doom, after an elaborate moral science session has played itself out on the screen.
That woman keeps changing with every new Bhandarkar release, but the film remains the same. The bar dancer of Chandni Bar, the fiery politician of Satta, the honcho in Corporate, the hack in Page 3 and the supermodel of Fashion have lived through photo-copied trials, tribulation and trauma, tweaked slyly to accommodate their respective occupational hazards.
Heroine offered Madhur the irresistible scope to track that formula in a Bollywood setup with Kareena Kapoor in the lead. The film runs on standard Madhur Bhandarkar fuel. You spot the filmmaker's penchant at creating fiction amidst a well-researched bag of facts. For Madhur, the research must have been easier this time since he was out exposing his own work space.
The film industry backdrop in Heroine is one you are aware of if you routinely dig the gossip glossies. It's a world where compromise is a way of life, friends and foes are chosen to suit vested interests and morality is a luxury you can ill-afford if you want to rise. And yes, a single woman bitten by the success bug will invariably have a price to pay.
The woman in question here is Kareena as superstar Mahi Arora. The chinks in Mahi's world of perfection are laid down soon enough.
Madhur's films are known to give the heroine one vital flaw that will facilitate downfall. In Mahi's case the flaw lies in her bipolar personality, obviously an outcome of the fact that she is a loner who pines for true love. She thinks she finds it in the married superstar Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal), but her obsession for the opportunistic Aryan can only lead to heartbreak. Rapidly growing unsure of what she wants, Mahi starts losing out. A career that demands nothing short a perfect image has no place for an actress with mood swings.
The problem with Heroine is the film banks on a weak script. Clearly, Madhur and his co-writers (Manoj Tyagi and Anuradha Tiwari) were trying to give us a more wicked update of Fashion, his 2008 film that also dug for showbiz skeletons. His new film however lacks the element of surprise. Worse, at a runtime of about two-and-half hours Heroine looks like a long-drawn boring affair.
There are the authentic snapshots on the way, though. Madhur unleashes a veritable guessing game straight off real-life Bollywood with individual scenes. An actress pours wine on the head of a star wife in a party. A cricketer (Randeep Hooda) is known for his glad eye for heroines. A 'family man' superstar (Sanjay Suri) insists on adding an item number by a top diva in his film to steal his heroine's thunder because she spurned his advances. A rival actress (Mugdha Godse) plays dirty to wrest a top endorsement deal. These are all straight off grapevine buzz.
Yet, none of these subplots take off because the film's assortment of characters essentially comprises cardboard cutouts.
The actor who suffers the most due to bad writing is Randeep Hooda. He gets the body language and style just right as the cricketing hero Angad Paul, only to be rudely yanked out of the script at one point.
It could all be redeemed by the star of the show. But then, Kareena surprisingly overacts. Despite being in almost every frame, she never really overcomes the highly flawed character she gets to play.
Madhur Bhandarkar, toasted for the heroine-oriented scripts he creates, has just given us his weakest female protagonist yet. That itself lays bare the irony about the film titled Heroine.