Let me illustrate the failure of director Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine with an anecdote from the showing I attended. During a completely serious moment late in the film, Arjun Rampal’s character, Aryan, tells Kareena Kapoor’s Mahi tenderly, “You look beautiful.” The audience laughed.
Heroine is so overwrought and lacking in subtlety that it’s impossible to take seriously. Emotional switches are flipped on a dime, accompanied by dramatic musical cues that are unnecessary because Kapoor’s instantaneous turns from happy to sobbing, shaking fury make it impossible to misinterpret Bhandarkar’s intent.
Kapoor plays Mahi, a superstar actress whose position at the top of the Bollywood hierarchy is threatened by newcomers willing to bribe entertainment journalists with shopping vacations. Mahi’s personal life is on the fritz, too, as her married actor boyfriend, Aryan, dawdles on his way to divorce court.
The couple breaks up, Mahi abuses pills, goes through a PR makeover, dates an athlete (played by Randeep Hooda), and does an indie film to gain some acting chops. The indie film debacle results in a night of drunken lesbianism with a co-star (played by Shahana Goswami). Mahi cries a lot through the melodramatic course of her career, angrily smoking cigarette after cigarette, as if they are responsible for her personal and professional troubles.
Kapoor’s performance is all over the place. I don’t fault her, because I think it’s what Bhandarkar wanted. The problem is that, no matter what she does, Mahi is always wrong. Things always end badly for her. She’s a character with no control over her destiny. It’s hard to connect with a character in such a helpless position. The moral of the story seems to be, “Don’t become an actor.”
When not in emotional roller coaster mode, the film is too “inside baseball.” I’m interested in the film industry, and even I couldn’t care less about scenes in which Mahi discusses changes to the marketing budget with her production team.
The good elements of Heroine are limited to Goswami’s awesome cleavage and multiple shirtless shots of Hooda and Rampal. The dance number “Halkat Jawani” is entertaining, too.
There are two scenes from Heroine that will stick with me because I’m not sure how to explain them, both involving reading material. In one scene, a slimy co-star invites Mahi back to his hotel room, hoping to seduce her. Before she arrives, he places a James Patterson novel on a bedside table. What is this supposed to signify about him? “Hey, Mahi, I know nothing turns chicks on more than popular genre fiction.”
In another scene, an argument between Mahi and Aryan is observed with fiendish glee by up-and-coming actress pretending to be engrossed in an Archie comic. Why Archie? What’s the symbolism? What does it mean?!?!