Fashion: A Film Review

October 31, 2008

This is my first attempt at reviewing a movie, I am an avid movie-goer but I have never reviewed one. I saw “Fashion” today and I do want to say a few things about the movie.

This piece may contain some spoilers so those who wish to watch the movie and are particular about these things may wish to skip this piece.

I had nearly given up on Madhur Bhandarkar with the passage of time. I thought “Chandni Bar” was brilliant, “Page 3” was acceptable, and “Corporate” was a disaster. I was so disappointed with the director that I avoided seeing “Traffic Signal”. (I have not seen his other movies, “Satta” and “Trishakti”, either). After “Corporate” the only thought I had was that here is a great movie director but one who had gone to seed.

Fashion” has reinstated my faith in the director.

The story is about the fashion-modelling industry. It is told through three women. One a super-model, Shonali, (Kangana Ranaut) who is not able to handle her super-success and denigrates into drug-addiction, eventually losing her life to drug overdose. The other, a B-class model, Janet Sequeira (Mugdha Godse) street-smart but with a heart of gold ends up making compromises with life. And the third, Meghna Mathur, (Priyanka Chopra), a small-town girl with big ambitions of becoming a super-model after winning a local beauty contest.

The story of the industry is told through the interweaving lives of these three women.

Meghna Mathur has the looks and more importantly the “spunk” (as the model agency boss Kitu Gidwani puts it with admiration in a remarkable scene at her office) to make it to the top. She quickly moves up, compromising her morals and eventually this spunk, which from confidence moves to arrogance, does her in. Meghna had replaced Shonali as the super-model and she in turn gets unseated by another newcomer. The last 40-50 minutes deal with how she gets into a depression and then claws her way back to being a top model all over again.

While this is a story of three women in the modelling world, the remarkable thing is that the script-writers and the director have managed to write-in several supporting characters with great body and clarity. The designers, model coordinators, the modelling industry movers and shakers, all written with care and detail. As also the working details of the industry. Even the dialogue exchange between the photographers, so reminiscent of the drivers’ exchange of words in “Page 3”.

I have no insider information about how this industry works, my only exposure to it is through mass media. So whether some designers are gays, models keep smoking all the time and quaffing bottles of wine before a show, models sleeping with their bosses, etc, I have no way of knowing. I do not know whether designers buy garments from global markets (“Indira market” of Bangkok in this movie), change tags and pass them as their own.  Maybe stereotypes, but all ring true.

And yes, this movie does have a “wardrobe malfunction” but this would hardly gladden the heart of a voyeur. This is so sensitively handled that one feels like crying with the model concerned when she has a break-down in the green room after she returns from the stage.

I do wish, though, that the movie was about 30-40 minutes shorter, it tends to drag a bit after the interval. A 2:45 hour movie is a bit too much!

The way the character of Meghna is written, it could be the role of a lifetime for any actress. And does Priyanka grab the offer! With both hands. Head and heart firmly in place! She is there in virtually every frame, and the camera lovingly captures her beauty and emotions. Emotions right from the eager-beaver days of being a struggler from a small town, to someone gaining entry into the industry, at her peak and then the decline. The scene where she breaks down in front of the mirror in her bedroom ashamed at her moral decline (wiping kaajal and liner off her tear-sodden face; like wiping away the “kaalikh” from her face) is a treat to watch. The big show where she is about to re-enter the modeling world but has a personal tragedy to simultaneously deal with is heart-rending.

Kangana Ranaut breaks your heart with her destined-to-death life-script. Though, to be fair, this characterization reminds me too closely of her performance in “Gangster” (the only other movie of hers I have seen). I always thought of Mugdha Godse as just a model with an impossibly sculpted body (to have an idea, watch the poster of the film, the one which has the three protagonists together), but she is totally easy on the camera. Very likeable. Kitu Gidwani is competent, and so are the male characters of Arbaaz Khan, Samir Soni, Harsh Chhaya, Ashwin Mushran. Madhur Bhandarkar too makes a Hitchcockian appearance as himself.

When I returned home after seeing the movie (we had wisely, not taken our kids along), my younger son who is all of 12 years asked me what I would rate the movie as. I said three, and he, a follower of TOI’s Nikhat Kazmi, was satisfied.

What I meant was: Three cheers for Madhur Bhandarkar, we shall await your next!