In 1957, the living legend of Bollywood, Manoj Kumar debuted through a movie titled as Fashion. More than five decades later, the self-proclaimed realistic filmmaker of Hindi cinema, Madhur Bhandarkar who is habituated of showing the dark side of every phenomena in his movies, presented a movie under the same title. The movie not only got accolades for realistic (!) portrayal of the fashion world, but also was a box office hit and the leading ladies’ winning prestigious awards for their performances in the movie, proved to be the icing on the cake. Now the question is, should we believe anything shown to us in the name of reality only because the storyteller has earned a reputation for himself as a realistic filmmaker ? Let’s examine.
Fashion (2008) tells the story of a small town middle class girl who made it big in the modelling world of Mumbai only to fall from grace very shortly. After watching the whole movie what I felt is that the movie should have been appropriately titled as ‘Model’ instead of ‘Fashion’ because it is filled with the experiences of the (female) models throughout. It does not touch any other aspect of the fashion world or the fashion industry. Do a few ramp-walking models and ad-agencies are the whole fashion world, excluding the dress designers with their marketing, canvassing and cut-throught competition; the tailors doing the real job, the changing fashion trends and the condemnable sexual exploitation of the newcomer models ? Madhur Bhandarkar wants us to believe that fashion world is just an aggregate of catwalk, big fashion shows, renowned showstopper supermodels, ad agency owners mighty enough to make or break any model’s career and of course, drug abuse, all night parties, drunken driving, wayward one-night stands and gay fashion designers ? No Mr. Bhandarkar ! Fashion world is too big to be just the sum total of whatever you have shown. Howsoever intelligent a filmmaker might be, he cannot be allowed to take his audience for a ride.
By incorporating the real life story of a ruined model – Geetanjali Naagpaal through the character of Kangana Ranaut, Madhur Bhandarkar has tried to prove his plot as authentic. But everything portrayed by him – irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour, drug addiction, carefree sexual life etc. on the part of the successful models is too exaggerated to be true in general. The reality for a few cannot be generalized for all. If success goes to the head of a successful model and she starts behaving irresponsibly in her personal and professional life thereby inviting her doom, it is her problem and the fashion industry has nothing to do with it.
Madhur’s research work is also poor. He has depicted Adarsh Nagar in Mumbai as the big centre of struggler models. This is an outdated fact. Now the real centre for auditions of new models is Link Plaza at Oshivera, Mumbai.
Madhur Bhandarkar has shown Priyanka, a small town girl with middle class morality, first living-in with another model, Arjan Bajwa and then getting sexually involved with any known-unknown person anytime without any hitch. Is it reality ? Come on Madhur ! The big reality is not an ambitious model’s trading her sexual favours with an ad agency owner for stardom, the big reality is the forced sexual exploitation of thousands of aspiring newcomer girls by model coordinators and ad agency owners which has been very conveniently skipped by you. Why ? Because it is easy to expose anybody outside your fraternity but very difficult to expose your own fraternity people. A sign of hypocrisy. Isn’t it ?
By default perhaps, the good thing portrayed by Madhur Bhandarkar is how success goes to a person’s head showing its ugly colour in his (in this film, her) behaviour, snatching the virtue of modesty and politeness, neglecting own well-wishers and creeping in of non-professional element in professional life. He has also shown the depression which is manifested when the life of the protagonist undergoes a lean patch. This is the bright side of the movie. It is also exemplary to show that one should strive hard to come out of depression and if fortunately life gives him (or her) another chance, he (or she) should exploit it to the fullest, avoiding earlier mistakes and transforming own personality in own interest.
The movie is fast-paced and engrossing. And had Madhur termed this movie as an entertaining one instead of a realistic one, he would have been perfect in asserting so. The sets, the costumes and the technical aspects are good. The music has one or two chartbusters to its credit. Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut have deservingly won the national as well as the Filmfare awards for the best actress and the best supporting actress respectively for their performances. Kangana though seems to have found herself typed as a ditched, lonely, melancholous girl which may not be good for her in the long run. Full supporting cast playing the characters that keep coming in and going out of the life of the main protagonist, i.e., Priyanka Chopra, has done a good job. The actress not winning any award but the hearts of the viewers with her debut performance itself, is Mugdha Godse.
Madhur Bhandarkar’s appearing in a scene of the movie and calling himself a realistic filmmaker through the mouth of another character in the scene, is ridiculous. Don’t do this job yourself Madhur. Let the others do it for you.
My concluding comments upon this so-called realistic movie – it is not a movie about fashion; it is, in fact, a collection of dos and don’ts (especially don’ts) in times of unexpectedly received huge success and hard-hitting failure. And the message is to keep your cool in both the life-situations. As Lord Krishna advises us in Bhagvad-Geeta to be a STHIT-PRAGYA (a man maintaining his mental-balance in all the times whether good or bad). And this is the real strength of Fashion.