Reviewing the Reviews: Heroine

24 Sep,2012


Key Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal

Written & Directed By: Madhur Bhandarkar

Produced By: Ronnie Screwvala


People finally caught on – that Madhur Bhandarkar tells the same story again and again and that he is also very misogynistic. Films about films seldom do well. Either star-struck people don’t want to see their idols toppled from their pedestals, or that filmmakers are hardly ever able to tell the truth about a complex world and resort to cliches and banalities.


His latest, Heroine, bored almost all critics, annoyed quite a few and got written off by all but Taran Adarsh as fake and superficial. It got a 2 to 2.5 star rating, with just the Times of India and Bollywoodhungama going over the standard. The word the cyberworld coined for this film –Zeroine.


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express wrote, “The only reason to watch Madhur Bhandarkar’s films is for the way they go behind the headlines and show us the dirt and the hurt that’s usually brushed under frayed rags and burnished carpets. In his better moments, Bhandarkar has let us see the stuff that’s crawled out from underneath clearly, and we’ve overlooked the tackiness because it has added to the understanding of the subject. Heroine, Bhandarkar’s pass at Bollywood, does none of this. It remains a string of drab cliches, despite a strong performance from leading lady Kareena Kapoor.”


Anupama Chopra of The Hindustan Times sneered, “It’s supposed to be our window into the muck, the Machiavellian politics and the Faustian bargains that a life in the limelight necessarily entails. This seemed, to me at least, like a perfect fit of maker and material. After all, what better subject for steamy scandal than the life of an actress? But sadly, Heroine never rises to the occasion. Bhandarkar and his team of co-writers – Anuradha Tiwari, Manoj Tyagi and Niranjan Iyengar – bung in every possible element of masala. There’s alcohol, affairs, a sex tape and even – gasp – a lesbian one-night stand. But Heroine doesn’t even deliver the frisson of a good Stardust story. It’s limp and, more incredibly, boring.”


Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu commented, “Madhur Bhandarkar’s latest thesis mounted on the points that fame is a terrible thing that slowly eats up your soul, journalists are unprincipled scum, privileged people smoke non-stop and drink non-stop and have casual sex non-stop, city people are generally evil, and gay men have the limpest wrists. Acknowledging the positive dimensions of fame would leave Bhandarkar with nothing to expend his moral outrage on. (And I have to wonder if that well isn’t running dry. After all these films, all these fulminations against the seedier side-streets of our society, how much more moral outrage can one man still possibly have?) ”


Rajeev Masand of IBNLive wrote, “Heroine, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar opens with genuine promise, but very quickly collapses into a heap of lazy stereotypes. Sadly, the film offers no original insight into the minds of movie stars or the inner workings of the Mumbai film industry – this is a movie that might well have been made by an avid reader of gossip rags; it hardly feels like the work of an experienced filmmaker. At least with Page 3, Corporate and Fashion, Bhandarkar cast an outsider’s eye on different worlds. What’s his excuse for doing such a sloppy job on an industry he belongs to?”


Sukanya Verma writing in quipped, “As always Bhandarkar intersperses the frames with backbiting industry types holding a drink in hand and fake smile on lips, philandering actors, haughty star wives, catty co-stars, snooping journalists, shrewd politicians and ruthless agents. Same old jibes, insecurities, conflicts, threats and scandals. Not to forget his constant obsession with homosexuals as objects of ridicule, be it in Heroine’s visibly effeminate fashion designer, gossip-hunting reporter or a multi-purpose sex toy. The latter even remarks, ‘Is industry mein zip aur zubaan dono sambhal ke kholni chahiye (One should open their mouth and zips with equal care).’ I am not sure if this is Bhandakar’s idea of comic relief but the hall roared with laughter.”


Aniruddha Guha of DNA ranted, “Heroine, though, is not just like Fashion, but resembles every film Bhandarkar has ever made before, and in the most terrible way. In other words, if you take every bad moment in every Bhandarkar film ever made, put them together in a two-and-a-half-hour long loop, the result will be a lot less distressing and a lot more entertaining than Heroine. All stock Bhandarkar characters return: overtly feminine male hairstylists / fashion designers, loud cops, bitchy rumour-mongers, vengeful mediapersons. Many of these are played by actors who make up the background crowd for one scene, only to be re-arranged and repeated again in others.”


Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV wrote, “This is a glossy picture postcard that has seen better days – still good to look at but frayed at the edges and utterly lifeless. The foremost problem with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine is that behind its gossamer exterior, it is weighed down by banalities that don’t quite add up. In conveying the ebbs and tides of the life of a self-obsessed, impulsive and troubled Bollywood diva, the film taps into the tropes that constitute the Bhandarkar formula. The novelty has worn off. So, all that the audience is left with is an overwhelming sense of deja vu.”


Meena Iyer, writing in the Times of India was kinder than most. “Heroine would have been crisper had it not digressed to cover every Bollywood insider account. When the maker attempts to show mainstream cinema’s condescending attitude towards art-house films, precious screen time is lost. Mahi’s attempt to play a prostitute and say scandalous lines are clearly attempted to woo the front-benchers but the gig lacks conviction. The music is a complete letdown and even the item song Halkat Jaawani fails to give the required ‘rise’ to proceedings. Of course the saving grace of the film is Kareena who not only looks drop-dead gorgeous but is also adept as the girl interrupted.”


Taran Adarsh of was the only rave. “On the whole, Heroine is yet another hard-hitting motion picture from Madhur Bhandarkar. For persistently choosing women-centric themes, for consistently winning national acclaim and most significantly, magnetizing moviegoers in large numbers to view his cinema, the efforts of the maverick film-maker deserve to be lauded. Watch Heroine for Madhur’s imposing direction, for Kareena’s superlative performance, watch it also for its fearless, inspiring and enlightening storyline divulging the scandalous realities of the movie industry. Try not to miss it! ”


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