From the dingy, dark, drinking holes in Chandni Bar to the spotlit world of high fashion in quite an arc for filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who makes another faintly exploitative movie exposing some more dirt under the complexity that is Mumbai.
Fashion is the ex-video distributor’s 8th movie as director. Priyanka Chopra is Meghna Mathur, the small town girl who dreams of becoming a supermodel in the big, bad metropolis. With the help of a few friends she has a spectacular rise to success and an equally explosive fall before she realizes a few home truths about herself and the strength of her small town values.
If this sounds like a fairly conventional parable, it is. The plot is far less complex than the director’s earlier efforts like Page 3 or Traffic Signal. Meghna’s success in the glittering world of fashion comes far too easily, considering the struggles most aspiring models go through to make it and how many fail. It feels that her quick rise is just a setup for the troubles that come after, and even these seem forced. The way Meghna’s character is developed early in the movie, she seems like a pretty sensible, level-headed girl and it is not quite clear how she could fall prey to drinking and diva-like behavior in such a short time.
Kangana Ranaut is supermodel Shonali Gujral, whom Meghna deposes as the queen bee of the catwalk. She emotes well, though her diction still needs work, but she is danger of being typecast as the boozing out-of-control prima donna( previous roles in Woh Lamhe, Gangster and Metro all had her alcoholically impaired and she seems to have become the go-to girl for characters like these).
Priyanka Chopra as Meghna gives a heartfelt performance, showing that in the hands of a good director she is capable of competent work. She has the looks and figure to pull off the character of a supermodel, though in real life she probably would have been asked to lose 10 pounds. But all her earnestness cannot lift this movie from being a superficial look at what must be a cutthroat industry, full of scheming and politicking. People are just too nice to be real. Meghna gets an unbelievable amount of support from designers, talent agents and fellow models, something even I, with my limited knowledge of this industry found hard to swallow.
It is as if the filmmaker, having tasted commercial success, has added a glossy patina to what used to be gritty and raw moviemaking. Madhur Bhandarkar makes a cameo in the movie, gently mocking his tendency to capitalize on the pain and the hurt that lingers just under the surface of so much of Mumbai’s successes. And in a nod to how well the formula is working, Karan Johar shows up too.
I would rate Fashion as watchable, at least for those of us with limited knowledge of this environment. Unlike Chandni Bar and Page 3, expect it to fade from your memory quickly, though.
Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar
*ring – Priyanka Chopra, Raj Babbar, Kangana Ranaut
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.