Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Akanksha , Avani Modi , Kyra Dutt, Ruhi Singh , Satarupa Pyne and Rohit Roy
Madhur Bhandarkar spares no chance to let us know that it is a bad, bad world out there: three out of five calendar girls in 2014 ended up in scarily unfortunate conditions. But wait, here’s the first shock: Bhandarkar says it’s not the platform that should be blamed for all this. Instead, he says It is the individual choices that are to be blamed.
That Bhandarkar is the one who made National-Award winning films like Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut’s Fashion, and Tabu’s Chandni Bar, is reason enough to expect this new film too to be a critical, incisive look into the world of ‘Calendar Girls who are made celebs for a year and forgotten the next season’.
The film’s premise is shocking. But are we scandalised enough, and engaged too, at the end of this 131 minute-long look inside yet another infamous industry?
Calendar Girls opens on the right note, and for the first ten minutes, even manages to get us hooked to the characters. The family background and back-story of each model is engaging to say the least: from the struggles of a girl from a middle-class family trying to break free of the shackles imposed on her to the sadness of a girl from a very rich family where nobody is interested in knowing what she’s doing in life, all the stories in this film are real and endearing.
However, the film starts slipping into a showcase of two-piece bikinis and an overdose of skin show in the name of a calendar shoot in Mauritius. And when this continues for more than half hour, you can’t help but think why are you wasting your time on a B-grade movie.
The plot picks up post the first hour of torture and, to be fair to the film, it does raise some genuine issues.
The film traces the story of five models who make it big with a calendar shoot, how they have the time of their life when the going is great, only to be let down soon thereafter. Of these five models, two are shown as success stories too – a novelty for Bhandarkar. Be it Konkona Sen in Page 3 or on Priyanka Chopra in Fashion, the director’s stories are mostly dark ones about women as victims of various situations out of their control. The movie becomes especially engaging after the interval with useless bikini shots replaced with genuine appearances and a captivating twist to the five stories.
Performance wise, most of the actors seem to have sleep-walked through their characters. Ruhi Singh, who plays Mayuri Chauhan from Rohtak, is the only one who seems to be putting in her best for the movie. Her character lands a few Bollywood roles and is crazy about social media and Twitter trends. She is super –excited for every single interaction she has with various people in the industry and makes sure she has a selfie with everyone for a tweet. Ruhi portrays the charmingly kiddish behaviour, over-enthusiastic and ambitious nature perfectly in the movie. Satarupa Pyne who plays Paroma Ghosh from Kolkata, is believable in a few scenes but not enough to make her whole journey in the movie identifiable.
Madhur Bhandarkar, too has a guest appearance in the movie, and it is fun. He is seen talking about filmmaking to his spot boys: “Hero ke nakhre na jhelne pade isliye heroine-centric filmein banata hoon, ab heroines ke bhi nakhre jhelun mai?” Cut to the controversy around Anushka Sharma’s cosmetic surgery and you realise the sarcasm hidden in the dialogue.
There is also an obvious mention of the reality show Bigg Boss: One of the girls is caught up in a cricket betting racket, is arrested and released on bail. Just when she contemplates suicide, producers of a reality show knock at her door and offer her a chance ‘to put across her side of the story’. As if that was not hint enough, they clarify that their show prefers controversial people as contestants and the format involves two-month cut-off from the outside world with cameras keeping an eye on the participants.
Rohit Roy has done a tremendous job of over-acting and flaunting a put-on accent. His forced enthusiasm only spoils each scene where he appears on screen.
The dialogues are one of the reasons why you should to skip Calendar Girls. When Paroma Ghosh’s boyfriend elaborates on his plans for the upcoming cricket league saying ‘hum is league mein betting karenge aur lakho rupaye kamaenge’, it reminds you of one of those crappy Bollywood movies from the late 80s: The heroine is caught snooping on the villains and she shows them exactly where she has hidden ‘evidence’ against them and tells them: ‘Mai abhi police ke paas jaa ke ye sabot (showing precisely where to dive for it) dungi aur aapko apke kiye ki sazaa dilwaungi.’ To put it in a nut-shell, the dialogues are too obvious and unnecessary.
Bhandarkar had a revealing, emotional and realistic story at hand; something that could have made for a compelling watch. The narration, bland and plain dialogues and bad acting (save for one or two actors), however, kills the experience. Yes, you won’t lose much even if you give a miss to this film.
The author tweets @swetakaushal.