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Calendar Girls: A dated pursuit

A scene from the film Calendar Girls  

We know mainstream cinema is about commerce but can it be reduced to an Excel sheet document? Madhur Bhandarkar has managed to do it. It seems he just has to fill in the facts and figures in the flowchart. Bouncing off newspaper headlines and gossip of glamour magazines in the name of script, once again he is peeping into the supposed immoral side of the rich and the famous. Of course he is not judgemental. For a director known for giving the heroine her due, here Bhandarkar suggests one should not leave a philandering rich husband because he cheats when he is under stress. Another lesson is howsoever independent you are if your boyfriend wants to use you as a bait you can give in. Of course as one of protagonists says it is about the choices you make and for now Bhandarkar seems to be enjoying the life a habitual voyeur. Once upon a time his flawed characters showed us the mirror; today the mirror wilfully refracts reality.

Using the template of Fashion, Bhandarkar’s last hurrah at the turnstiles, this week the facts come from spot fixing and honey trap in cricket, escort service, the desire to cross over from modelling to films, reality shows, etc and the figures, lent by five new comers, are captured by a rather lecherous camera in the name of reflecting the reality of calendar shoots. The tone is shrill so much so that even intimate details are shared in full volume and the message hangs on the sleeve. The saving grace is Bhandarkar knows he is trapped in an image and has the ability to laugh at himself. So when he turns up in a cameo to tell us what his cinema is all about, we crack up.



Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Genre: Drama
Cast: Akanksha Puri, Avani Modi, Satarupa Pyne, Ruhi Singh, Kyra Dutt, Rohit Roy, Suhel Seth, Keith Sequeira
Bottomline: The two piece advice is stay away!
The basic concept feels odd and dated because calendars and pin up girls have never been part of mainstream dialogue in India. Even when Kingfisher tried to make it a part of the mainstream discourse by launching a reality show type hunt for a model for the calendar; it appeared on a niche lifestyle channel and failed to create much flutter in the TRPs. So when Bhandarkar wants us to believe that these calendars are hung in the neighbourhood tea shops and have great aspirational value, it baffles. Indeed, the likes of Deepika Padukone, Nargis Fakhri and Lisa Haydon have featured in Kingfisher calendars but that has never been their identity in the masses because these limited edition calendars are out of the reach of the common man. If the idea is to give him a peek into this flashy side of life it doesn’t hold because Bhandarkar quickly moves from the specifics of a calendar to the generalities of the modelling world and his trademark flourishes, which we can sense from a long distance now.

Laced with lazy lines, it is just an excuse to return to Fashion territory where five girls leave their homes to have a date with fame. Some make it; others slip through the cracks that dot the glamour industry.

Among the girls, Ruhi Singh impresses as Mayuri, the girl from Rohtak, who knows PR skills are as important as talent. She overacts but then she is supposed to present a caricature of a wannabe actress. Satararupa Pyne is not bad as the Bengali girl Paroma Ghosh who gets trapped in the cricket-crime nexus. The script allows Kyra Dutt to evolve through the course of the film and she doesn’t disappoint as the sorted Sharon Pinto. For Akanksha Puri acting is all about fluttering eyelids and saddled with a character full of clichés Avani Modi as the calendar girl from Pakistan fails to lend any depth to Nazneen.

Invoking a staple dialogue of Hindi cinema when Nazneen bemoans that while selling her body she didn’t realise when she sold off her soul, one wonders whether she is referring to Bhandarkar’s films. There was a time when his films scratched the conscience. Here he seems to be stroking the desires of that wide-eyed audience who once upon a time used to get their fix from morning shows. It is a glossier, more rounded version of that B-grade entertainment that is increasingly becoming synonymous with Bhandarkar. It will be able to titillate the target audience but as far as reality and expose are concerned, it is as shallow as the television debate that masquerades as badi behas in the film.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 10:22:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/a-dated-pursuit/article7689472.ece

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