On Dec 2nd, 2011, filmmaker Milan Luthria (fresh from the success of “Once Upon A Time in Mumbai” a year back) released his next “The Dirty Picture” which was produced again by Ekta Kapoor’s ‘ALT Entertainment’ – that previously backed successful films like Love, Sex aur Dhoka, Shor in the City and Ragini MMS.
Vidya Balan starred as village girl with dreams Reshma, who later shines as the unprecendent dancing star Silk in the South film industry in the 80’s. Keedadas (Rajesh Sharma), produces films that satiates the urges of sex-starved men, spotted her in a evocative sequence in one of his films where she whips herself seductively, making the film a big hit. Silk is someone who never minced her words, she would speak her mind unabashedly almost turning off a lot of people with her utter boldness.
The film had three heroes: Naseeruddin Shah featured as an ageing superstar Suryakant for whom women is nothing but a toy to play with. In spite of knowing his flamboyant image, Silk didn’t mind romancing him, she was offered roles courtesy her affair with him but suddenly one day gets ruthlessly cut off from his life because Suryakant was done with her physically and did not desire her anyone.
Soon, she confides in Suryakant’s younger brother Ramakant (Tusshar Kapoor), a timid writer in search of his first break. However, unlike Suryakant, Ramakant genuinely fallen in love with her and Silk does reciprocate his feelings but again finds herself abandoned by him because he’s been made to believe that she is only worth being laid. Success gets into her head too early costing her opportunities she lost out of insecurities that plagued her.
Silk was seen to share a hateful relation with offbeat filmmaker Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), who couldn’t stand her sight. He despised her a lot because producers would interfere in his film narration and force him to cast Silk to spice up scenes and make the male audience scratch their privates instead of their brains. However, in the process of consistently hating her, he turned out to be the only man who knew Reshma within her whom Silk had hidden inside in order to never let the world see her vulnerability.
The Dirty Picture was a provocative biopic chronologically based on late Silk Smitha, who ruled the South Indian industry in the 80’s with her bold roles. Now when the film released, most of us thought it would be treated as a realistic docu-drama (not a bad thing at all though) describing her unprecedented fame to gradual fall but Milan was ably supported by writer Rajat Arora who constructs the script with equal commercial elements to present a film that has both the world charm, and therein lies the victory. The dialogues (written by Rajat Arora) became a rage and is often mouthed by most of us because it is witty and doesn’t sound pedestrian in any way. The sensual scenes, focal point of the film, was shot aesthetically, whether it is Silk gyrating in Ooh la la, saucily lounges on a bath tub while giving an interview, moaning for a film shoot or even dancing on the bonnet of the car to disrupt a party she wasn’t invited to; none of them looked cheap or vulgar, and it is indeed a big feat.
While the male actors were well-cast and their performances served the storyline smoothly, it was Vidya Balan who stole the scenes. Her transition from a motor-mouthed village girl Reshma to uninhibited dancing star Silk to a woman who questioned her existence leading her to a life extremity was remarkable to say the least (she already cemented her position as one of the finest actresses who proved her mettle with unconventional films like Paa, Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica). She not only won hearts with her fearless portrayal but also went on to win the National Award for Best Actress for the following year.
What makes Vidya so special and sets her apart from the rest of her contemporaries? She chose to essay a role hardly anyone would dare to. Even at the cost of possibly evoking anger, she went ahead with playing Silk, disregarding her vanity for the sake of her craft.She was not only required to put on weight (which is still not a norm), but also to evoke sensuality like never before onscreen, in addition Silk was someone who shoves her sexual innuodes down you that often makes her unlikable and too bold to digest. Vidya pushed the envelope in a way she bared herself both physically and emotionally, it’s tough to imagine any other actress to essay Silk with such gusto as she did.
Besides having a taut screenplay with the perfect package of both commercial and art world charm, there are two other but significant reasons why The Dirty Picture worked for me:
Firstly, the film is refreshingly judgement-free, here the filmmaker did not portray Silk as a victim of sexual exploitation, she is someone who chose to use her sexuality to enter the film industry with no regrets of her act, which doesn’t necessarily make her, what people often call, as slut. Silk is flawed, uninhibited woman who is self-aware of her individuality and doesn’t shy being transparent about her emotions & taking responsibility of her own actions. In short, she is as real and human as much as us.
Secondly, the film shattered stereotype by casting an actress who isn’t size zero. Yet Milan projected her personality with great affection thus making her extremely desirable and adored. There are woman (even men) who comes in all sizes and shapes. I personally felt The Dirty Picture promoted Body positivity and I know a lot of women who felt good about themselves, after years of suffering body shame, after watching this film & had got their self esteem restored, albeit not overnight but did see light at the end of dark tunnel. Of course, I am not promoting obesity either, all I am saying is attraction has nothing to with appearances and confidence doesn’t mean one should cut themselves to a particular size to win hearts.
Soundtrack by Vishal-Shekhar consisted of terrific songs like ‘Ishq Sufiyaana’, ‘Honeymoon ki raat’ and ‘Twinkle twinkle’ but it is nevertheless “Ooh la la” that was the best of lot and chartbuster hit. Crooned by Shreya Ghoshal and Bappi Lahiri, this track had all the elements of 80’s era and with Vidya and Naseeruddin’s crackling chemistry and the exquisite choreography, the song won our hearts. (I still hear it on the loop).
With a grand package of clever mix of commercial-art direction, electrifying sequences and dialogues, catchy music and terrific performances (esp. Vidya), The Dirty Picture still remains one of my favorite hindi language films even after all these years since it’s theatrical release. If you have time, do watch it again.
The much loved teaser:
Chartbuster song Ooh la la: