Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FASHION: The Movie

I went to watch Priyanka Chopra in FASHION, but was impressed by the movie itself instead. It's a Madhur Bhandarkar movie, and I learnt [I am not exactly top of things bollywood] that he made his name making movies depicting real life situations. I have seen PAGE 3 in bits and pieces, and it was okay - it was a bit simplistic but had a message. FASHION too was a bit simplistic on that scale, but impressive in its execution.

Like so many other bollywood movies, FASHION really does not have a story. The young Meghna Mathur of Chandigarh defies her parents and comes to Mumbai to be 'a supermodel'. After lots of catchy lines, a sequence of improbable good luck and a string of impressive costumes, Meghna falls a victim of her own success, steps over the line when she makes public her affairs with her married benefactor, and is soon dumped, back to Chandigarh. There is a follow-up story, indeed, of her second coming and struggles, where her parents now support her and gives her the strength, and she finds lots of generous and forgiving friends allowing her to get back into the profession.

Not much of a story, really. But you can still play with this, if you had interesting characters. I am not sure if I am alone on this one, I find the bollywood movies a bit crowded. There are far too many characters, doing bits, but no one really making it special. Same here - many wasted opportunities in FASHION too. Meghna's generous and forgiving friends behave unexplainably - they are not real in their generosity or not human in their forgiveness. And, simply, there are far too many of them.
The other noticeable thing is that there is no villain here. I did not expect a film without a villain. A subject like fashion, and the film's A censor rating, usually indicated lots of kinkiness, but there was none. The fall guy are unusually logical, generous and forgiving. There is an odd arrogant monkey of a designer, but he stands out to be an exception. The fallen model, who Meghna belittled and then befriended, is unusually tolerant and adorable, despite her lifestyle issues. So, perfect characters all around - in a story of success - the movie was too sweet to be real.

But then, if one forgets that this one is supposed to be a feature film, then it is easy to see the documentary value of the film. Many shots, off stage and in parties, are real life, as is many 'character' roles, like Kittu Gidwani's in the modelling agency. This is a well researched film, as is evident, though the director could not stop advertising the fact and appeared in the film himself, on the pretext of doing research. Earlier in this blog, I wrote admiringly about FASHION BABYLON - that was primarily for the documentary value of the story. This one adds the model's side of the perspective.
The execution is good, as I have already mentioned. Costumes well designed, cast well chosen and sets grandly executed. One has started expecting these things by default from Bollywood, and the movie does not disappoint.

However, this 'realism' tells a story about India and its public. The current age is mad about success. Historically, failure sold better than success. But India is in that sweety syrupy age right now when failure is glossed over, not admired any more. The sheer good luck that builds success is treated as the default norm of life. So, FASHION will sell. But, the question one needs to ask: Will it last?

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