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Heroine is a Bollywood (Hindi language) film starring one of Bollywood's top actresses of recent years, Kareena Kapoor.
Mahi Arora is a successful Bollywood actress who is at the peak of her career with a couple of recent hit films behind her. She is having an affair with a co star Aryan Khanna who's trying to get a divorce. Unfortunately whilst his career is soaring Mahi's not getting the best offers and she's starting to get very possessive of Aryan, showing at his filming sets and interrupting bedroom scenes with rival actresses. She's getting a name as a difficult to work with actress and things are sliding downhill, she's drinking too much and things come to a head with Aryan. Mahi is approached by a PR guru to turn her image around and when Angad Paul, a famous cricketer comes into her life, Mahi starts to fall for him against the advice of her PR agent. Will Mahi find true love? Will she rise to the top again? Or will faces from her past come back to haunt her?
The opening scenes of the film show our "heroine" marching into a police station in tears and looking very dishevelled about to make a statement to the police before an older man arrives and drags her away with force. We find out within a few minutes that this man is her manager and that the initial scene is quite misleading.
I wasn't expecting to like Heroine very much, having read some fairly negative reviews about it and not exactly being a big fan of Kareena Kapoor. Several of the reviews stated that Kapoor's character just cries all the way through the film which was a bit off the mark. There is a lot of misery in the film and it really doesn't show India's huge and booming film industry, aka Bollywood, in a good light. We see male stars of films trying to get their female leads into bed and not taking rejection too well and seemingly having all too much power over their co-stars. One such incident is shown in the film and it's rather shocking that a leading lady doesn't get any advertising before a potential big hit film premieres with all the publicity focusing on the "item number" girl. For those that don't know, the item number is the female who appears for 5-7 minutes during a song and dance routine in the film, usually the most popular song and the raunchiest.
We also see famous actresses of yesteryear, Shagufta Rizvi (played by Helen who was once very famous in Bollywood as being an "item girl" herself) being treated with very little respect. She forms a strong bond with our leading lady who is horrified when on set one day she sees the older actress sitting out in the heat perspiring profusely, she demands to know why she hasn't been given her own dressing room/trailer and then takes her along to her own one. This is one of the only unselfish relationships we see Mahi having.
I have to say Kapoor impressed me with her acting in Heroine. Some scenes call for her to look very unglamorous and many leading actresses in Bollywood may be too vain to go this but Kapoor rose to the challenge. Some of the scenes were rather unflattering but this added credibility to the role for me. I understand Aiswariya Rai was originally supposed to play the lead in Heroine but pulled out due to her pregnancy.
Arjun Rampal as Aryan Khanna looked as stunning as always (yes, I'm a big fan)! He oozes sex appeal so was definitely a good choice for one of the male protagonists of the film. I found myself changing between liking and disliking his character several times during the film due to his inconsistent behaviour but it was quite understandable on the whole.
I don't really know Randeep Hooda as an actor; he plays a famous cricketer in the film that falls hook, line and sinker for the newly and improved Mahi after her PR agent works hard to build up her reputation. I felt somewhat sorry for his character in the film but to say why would be to give too much away. Needless to say, going out with an actress who has a reputation for being a bit of a diva should have given him ample warning as to her rather erratic behaviour! I did feel the character of Mahi was sometimes inconsistent in her desires, one minute she's more worried about her lover and her future with him and another she's more obsessed with her career. She does sometimes come across as quite spoilt and personally speaking I had no sympathy for her with regards to her jealousy regarding her married lover's wife. In one scene she shows up at a party knowing full well her lover is going to be there with his wife and that even the hosts aren't expecting her to turn up.
I thought the mother of the leading lady was an odd character. She was played by Lilette Dubey, who generally plays small parts like this. I don't think she's a very good actress to be frank and she certainly didn't pull off the role of mother too well on this film. Her character's behaviour was also quite inconsistent and in this case, it made very little sense.
One part of the story which was particularly of interest was when Mahi is playing the part of a prostitute and the "arty" director of this low budget film gives her a really hard time as she's not convincing as a prostitute. A female co star persuades her to go along with her to visit some actual brothels to learn how to really portray local prostitutes with quite amusing outcomes.
Overall the story could be considered a good insight into the ins and outs of Bollywood stars, producers, directors, etc, but another thing I found very odd was an actor dictating to the director/producer as to who he wanted as his leading lady.
Director Madhur Bhandarkar is not one to shy away from making controversial films as can be seen by some of his previous films Chandni Bar, Page 3, Jail and Fashion. I imagine he'll continue to push the limits when making future films.
I personally don't believe this film deserves the negative reviews it's received. Maybe most of those writing them as those that like typical Bollywood storylines. Certainly not this film as can be seen in the first 10-15 minutes with the excessive bad language used (in English no less)! Oh and I guess the fact that there weren't half a dozen or more song and dance routines in the film would mean they missed out. That was actually a plus point for me!
I'll be generous and give Heroine a respectable 3 out of 5 stars. It's not your typical Bollywood fare, not too many songs (definitely a plus point for me) and steering away yet again from typical storylines such as children separated from parent(s) in childhood and reunited decades later uniting to exact revenge on those who separated them! Heroine may be an interesting film to watch for those who know little or nothing about Bollywood, potentially an eye opener, if you can believe what you see on screen...
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hoodam Shahan Goswami, Sanjay Suri, Rakesh Bapat, Helen, Lilette Dubey, Shillpi Sharma, Mugdha Godse
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Producers: Ronnie Screwvala, Madhur Bhandarkar
Cinematography: Mahesh Limaye
Release date: 2012
Duration: 2.5 hours
NB: film only review