How do you know you are watching a Madhur Bhandarkar film? Let us count the ways:
1. The glamour industry is a mysterious, evil land
2. The word "industry" will be repeated very often, and only those in the know will understand what it means when it is said aloud in different tones
3. Every man wants to sleep with a hot, nubile young thing, male or female
4. Every success story has plenty of sex as its base
5. Every man in coloured clothes is a homosexual
6. Homosexuals are always in need of sex
7. Homosexuals are always betrayed in love, or they betray in love
8. Homosexuals are unhappy, bitchy people
9. Homosexuals can also be bisexuals
10. The older a man, or woman, is, the more likely he or she is to seduce younger strugglers
11. The only alternative career for a woman who shows skin, if she does not make it in the glamour industry, is that of an escort, or mistress
12. Every socialite comments on her contemporaries, and always in a bitchy manner
13. Socialites have no true friends
14. Socialites have hollow lives
15. All high society marriages are unhappy
16. All employees of high society families love to gossip about their employers
17. All socialites are bored housewives, who only have themselves to blame when they take on younger lovers to distract themselves
18. All news is paid news, especially from the high society and glamour industry circles
19. All practical journalists are bitchy
20. All independent women smoke and drink and sleep around
21. All high society and glamour industry people are condescending toward the less fortunate
22. These people speak in English, even when they don't
23. Certain words such as "media", "high society", "twitter" etc. will be repeated to drive home the fact that this is actually a contemporary, objective, with-it movie
24. Life is dark and filled with callousness when you are in the glamour industry
Indeed, if a movie has some or all of the elements above, you can almost be sure it is a Madhur Bhandarkar offering. This template has worked for all his movies so far, from Page 3
, and so it makes perfect sense to do one more. And this time, there are more women, more skin, and therefore more sex.
The rather flippant story of Calendar Girls, of five young women being offered a chance of a lifetime to be the models for a calendar photo shoot, does not by itself have enough premise to build a strong tale on. However, the narrative follows the fates of these young women after the shoot, and tells us what they have been doing since the grand calendar launch.
And that is how we find out that Kolkata girl Paromita (Satarupa Pyne) has hooked up with an ex, only to be betrayed again; that Hyderabad girl Nandita (Akanksha Puri) is married to a billionaire's son, but yearns for love; that Goan girl Sharon (Kyra Dutt) has been banned from the "industry", and is now a reporter/anchor of a news channel; that Rohtak girl Mayuri (Ruhi Singh) is determined to become a Bollywood actor, and is getting there; and that Pakistani girl Nazneen (Avani Modi) cannot go back to her conservative country, and is therefore employed now as an escort service woman. The rest of the movie is all about them telling you that their lives are screwed, and that something needs to be done, pronto.
The movie has plenty of misogyny, and sounds rather like a moral science class gone wrong. What the director is telling us, effectively, is that if you dare to dream of being a beauty queen or model, then you have to accept that bad things will happen to you. He also says that the only way to escape a fate worse than death is to sit at home, quietly, and be as underwhelming as possible. You are, after all, a woman, and in India, a woman should neither be seen nor heard. To top it all, the director uses language that makes you feel like you are back in the 1980s. The shock value just does not work at this point in history, or so one would hope!
So prepare yourself for more than your fair share of ho-hum moments, in which you will yawn till your jaws hurt. The only saving grace is the surprising calibre of the five main actors. They can act, and decently. Suhel Seth, on the other hand, is too busy emulating Vijay Mallya to lend credence to his own performance. Rohit Roy is smug, for no apparent reason, as the calendar photographer. He has more expressions than Hrithik Roshan. Mita Vashisht looks surprised most of the time.
Like most Madhur Bhandarkar movies, the production design falls flat on its face, as does the music. The cinematography is rather shoddy, which is where the root of the problem lies. The visuals are just not pleasing enough, nor do they seem authentic. The music is equally insipid. In short, Calendar Girls is just another Madhur Bhandarkar movie that relies too heavily on the shock value and on monotonous clichés, as opposed to a tight script.
Our suggestion - check out Chandini Bar
once, to remember what this director was all about, once upon a time.