In one of the introductory scenes of The Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan in her role as Reshma a.ka. Silk, says to Emran Hashmi playing Abraham, a reticent I-hate-Silk director “Filmein sirf teen cheezon ke wajeh se chalti hai. Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Aur main entertainment hoon.” If the dialogue was not a punch enough, the poise with which Vidya delivers it, is a coup-de-grace for the audience. The wink, which I have always felt, no actor had done enough justice to post Madhuri Dixit gets a fresh patronage under Vidya. Throughout the movie Vidya as Silk would enthral the viewers with this signature gesture post delivery of any key dialogue. The wink imparts a new meaning to the dialogues, almost as if it never meant what it was supposed to mean; more often establishing Silk’s symbolic pun at her two faced fans, friends or foes.
In Ishqiya, if a feisty Vidya was a revelation, in this movie, she goes on to establish herself as an unparalleled actor beyond the league of any of her contemporaries. And how - not just by choosing a role that already had character written all over it, not by deciding to get into the skin of the character through a methodist school of acting - putting on weight, smoking or wearing what the character was needed to, but the real achievement lay in the ability to confidently carry the role of a sultry southern seductress who got a raw deal from the industry that created her, adulated her and then let her slip into an oblivion death, ironically only to reprise her much later in this story. Milan Luthria’s choice of subject is a winner and there are no second thoughts about it. What would have been a pity is if this fine script, camera work and cinematography had met incompetent acting - the movie would have met doomsday instantaneously. The real winner therefore is the casting director followed by the actors themselves. Each role have had a glove like fit in its respective actors. Naseruddin Shah as the never ageing, womanising, super-star who has no qualms of ‘tuning’ with every co-actress during the night and then avoiding them with equal nonchalance in the day, does what he does best - act. It is a treat that we are present in an era to see fine actors like Shah present their craft over and over again tirelessly. Bravo.
Tushar Kapoor plays the second fiddle brother to the super star, a role he must have by now gained an excellence over considering the number of such roles he so convincingly plays. I have always argued that he is a fine actor, if only he knew to select his roles. As Ramakant, Tushar does not disappoint - he is the weakling who despite all his good intentions for Silk can never muster the courage to side step society and wed her.
The other male lead - Emran Hashmi is an actor who has really come of age from the only kiss-and-kiss days. One could not miss his stellar performance in Once upon a time in Mumbai (again a Milan Luthria movie). And once again in this movie he does poetic justice to the role of Abraham, Silk’s arch detractor from the beginning and yet ironically perhaps the only one who empathised in the true sense with her predicament. As a character of a director who lives in the arrogance of his film making abilities not believing that cheap ‘sex’ (read – Silk) can actually ever sell movies Emran is more than convincing. The bitter sweet irony is that by the end of it all when Abraham finally meets a commercial success he admits that movies sell only because of three things - ‘entertainment, entertainment and entertainment,’ thereby coming a full circle by quoting the woman he so loved to hate - Silk.
The movie however unabashedly belongs to the character and actor- Silk and Vidya Balan respectively. I have mentioned earlier that the real winner is the casting director and the cherry in the pie of casting is Vidya Balan. It is not my biased interest in Vidya speaking in this section, but if you have watched the movie, you will agree that reprising the role of a character who moves from rags to riches to rags in her own terms, compromising with morality and satiating the hunger for success, she is utterly fantastic from the first to the last shot. A good director can only do as much as set the plot to a perspective but a good actor can take a perspective to new heights. Vidya does exactly this. She defines the role Silk in a quintessential manner leaving an indelible impression on the viewers. People have written about her ability to confidently feature a more than voluptuous character with ease. I shall regard that second to her ability to impart a unique trademark to the character, which will remain with you as a viewer long after you have come out of the cinema halls. Hence, I began talking about the wink. The manner how Vidya delivers it, almost makes me feel as if it’s aimed as a symbolic pun at her critics and detractors who may have written her off for not being the quintessential size zero, hour glass heroine. Oh - she is not all of that and I thank God for this. She is, well, she is ‘entertainment’ ;)
The Dirty Picture certainly qualifies as one of the hundred-movies-to-watch-before-you-die. Don’t Miss it.