Madhur Bhandharkar’s latest directorial effort Fashion revolves around the life of Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra), who plays a small time girl from Chandigarh who goes off to Mumbai to make it big in the modeling world. Bhandharkar has emphasized how much he likes to research his subject thoroughly (so much so that there’s even a scene in the movie saying exactly that) before he starts a new project, so when you walk in to his world you know you’re not going to get your same-old song and dance and daredevil hero storylines. You know you’re going to get something different. Is being different always a good thing, though? Let’s find out.
As stated earlier, the movie revolves around the life of Meghna Mathur, who after winning a small beauty pageant thinks she has what it takes to step into the big league. After she heads to Mumbai she slowly starts to discover that this world of glitz and glamour has another side to it — an ugly one. Still, determined to be a supermodel, Meghna’s ready to do what it takes. There has to be someone she looks up to, of course. Someone who she idolizes — who is on the cover of every magazine – and that someone is Shonali Gujral (Kangana Ranaut), who is a model at the peak of her career. Meghna also finds a helpful companion in this cold, harsh world in Janet (Mugdha Godse).
What Madhur Bhandarkar has done extremely well with the story is how he has handled these three important characters and connected them — giving us an overall feel of the industry through their eyes. They each represent a different side of the lives of models in the fashion industry. On the one side we have Meghna – an innocent, small town girl who heads to Mumbai with nothing but confidence inside of her. As she gets to know this world of fashion, she realizes that there may be certain choices she may have to make which she normally wouldn’t. What’s great to see is when we do see her changing it seems very natural — almost expected, even – which really is a result of great acting and storytelling.
Janet, her close friend, is a person who is struggling to go from a “B grade” to an “A grade” model. She has to make a compromise in her life — a big one — but one that guarantees her a comfortable future. What may seem slightly asinine to us is a reality of the fashion industry. The movie has a very realistic feel to it and when you have Madhur Bhandharkar behind the lens you know there is a certain truth to these situations. Shonali Gujral, a model on the peak of her career and on the verge of it crashing down, is another side of the fashion industry, — perhaps the darkest — which is also shown very well.
The movie is shot expertly — the camera work is great. Madhur Bhandharkar is a pro in directing close-to-reality movies and Fashion is another fine example. He does a very good job of making us feel for the characters, which is a very important aspect when your movie is just about telling a simple story rather than depending on unexpected plot twists and whatnot. The most commendable scene would definitely be the one in the club, along with its aftermath, where we get to see Meghna’s darkest hour.
The songs are a pleasure to listen to. Not even once do they spoil the flow of the movie — which is a rarity these days. In most movies we see songs being added in just for the sake it — because the “janta” wants it — so it really is great to see Madhur Bhandhkar not going down that route. The songs compliment the scenes that they are in very well. Also, you can’t talk about a movie like Fashion with mentioning the dresses and the make-up. The verdict? Everything looked stunning.
Performance-wise, this movie shines. Priyanka Chopra has her meatiest role yet in this movie and she handles it like a pro. It really is a pleasure to see her in her stride, as we know she is a talented actress, but with a string of flops this year a standout performance was very important for her. Fortunately for her fans she gives it her all and doesn’t disappoint. What’s particularly amazing about this performance is the range of Priyanka’s character and how expertly she handles every aspect.
Kangana Ranaut is fantastic as the “showstopper” in the first half. You can almost feel her arrogance through the screen. The second half, however, was pretty much a continuation of her roles from her previous movies. She loses her mind, becomes a drug addict and just starts acting like a maniac. This may sound a little bit weird — but Kangana Ranaut was tailor-made for this role, which is why she should not have been cast. She’s played it too many times already, so even though she’s great at acting how she had to, it didn’t have that much of an impact — I ended up getting a “been there, done that” vibe. Perhaps with a new actress, or someone who hasn’t done such roles — the character could have had a bigger impact.
Mughda Godse is apt for the role of Janet. She’s almost like a natural. The fact that she’s able to hold her own in front of talented actresses like Priyanka and Kangana is a testament in itself. It was great to see her character transforming and how she handled it. Arbaz Khan does a great job as the owner of Panache, the company for which Meghna worked. His was a tricky character to play but Khan handles it like a piece of cake. Rohit Khanna (played by Ashwin Mushran) does a good job as Priyanka’s friend in the fashion world, though I feel his character could have used less “Ooh, what a cute guy!” lines. He’s gay. We get it. No need to remind us of that every single second he’s on screen. Harsh Chhaya does a decent job as Vikas, a famous fashion designer, but even he could have toned down his character’s mannerisms — just seemed a bit too over the top. Samir Soni, on the other hand, playing the role of famous fashion designer Rahul Arora, is a delight to watch.
Even though Arjan Bajwa’s role in this movie is very limited (playing Maanav Bhasin), I feel that Madhur Bhandharkar is able to deliver a strong message in a very subtle way through him and he handles it well as an actor. Kitu Gidwani also does a very goob job as Meghna’s “junior boss”, for lack of a better word. It really was a pleasure seeing her do well on the big screen. Albeit short-lived, Chitrashi Rawat was also great as Meghna’s “agent” during the start of the movie. Overall, you can really see that the cast worked really, really hard. This was definitely a project that Madhur Bhandharkar was very passionate about it and shows. Great work all around.
As for the negatives, I’m just going to come out with it — this movie is too long. The story starts to feel just a little stretched towards the end. It could have definitely used some cutting here and there. As stated earlier, even though Kangana was great in her role, the movie could have used someone else playing that character for more of an impact.
Other than that, in a time where the “leave your brain at home” genre is dominating the industry, Madhur Bhandharkar can proudly call himself the “thinking mans” director. He is not shy of exploring the darkest sides of his subjects, which is great to see in Bollywood. Though not groundbreaking, Fashion is a great example of a simple story of a complicated subject told flawlessly. Madhur Bhandharkar is a master of his craft. Fashion may or may not receive the commercial success that it deserves, but critical success is something that it will definitely not be short of. Don’t miss it.