Few people would have had enough of those occasional media explosions about Beauty's big, ugly stains, and the more frequent flare-ups about the smaller, everyday blemishes. We want to know those blemishes from so up close that we want to be able to see the pores emoting, and pity them. Bhandarkar's Fashion is then just what the doctor ordered for all those eager snoops, with its promise of voyeuristic peeks into the lives of those beautiful people.
The bad news is that Fashion has the same things we've known of all along - gay designers, bitchy talk, celebrity tantrums, wardrobe malfunctions, drug abuse, broken relationships, volatile affairs. The good news is that Fashion does grow itself a soul. And the best news is, that soul is Priyanka Chopra.
Yes, it's official - Bollywood has a new queen bee and show-stopper (Fashion will teach you what a show-stopper means): Priyanka Chopra. She's really the main reason you must watch the movie.
Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) is a starry-eyed, ambitious beauty contest winner from Chandigarh (with an unimpressive attempt at 'realism', she wears shiny butterfly hair-clips and huge, loopy silver earrings, and her portfolio includes pictures of herself clad in salwar kameez). She wants to make it big on the ramp, and moves to Mumbai against the wishes of her father (Raj Babbar).
There, gay designer Rohit Khanna (Ashwin Mushran) introduces her to a small-time model coordinator (Chitrashi Rawat - in a re-visitation of Chak De
's Komal Chautala). Struggling along with Meghna are Manav (Arjan Bajwa), who she starts seeing, and the been-there-done-that Janet (Mugdha Godse).
When Meghna makes her way to Panache, a top modelling agency owned by Abhijit Sarin (Arbaaz Khan) and managed by Anisha Roy (Kitu Gidwani), her spunk sweeps everyone off their feet, and she soon replaces the wild, drug-crazed fashion diva Shonali Gujral (Kangana Ranaut) as Panache's leading lady.
She rises to the top, breaking a lot of things on her way up, and not caring who the splinters are hurting. Soon, she turns into the very picture of recklessness that Panache had fired her predecessor for, and in a poof, her career swishes down the drain.
Devastated and overwhelmed by her loss of identity, she gives up and goes home, only to be cajoled by her father into giving her dreams a second chance. She goes back to Mumbai and starts again, and on her way to self-discovery, she finds the permanently stoned Shonali literally on the road, and reaches out to her in a bid to reconstruct her life, too. And thankfully, Bhandarkar ends the film with more hope than in his earlier films.
Fashion starts off with a rather over-simplified course of events and stereotyped characters. Meghna's ascent wasn't much of a struggle, and we are not getting scandalized by rude, successful designers and dressing-room bitchiness.
After dishing out the cliches, the film starts to bring in the substance, specially with the painful identity losses of both Shonali and Meghna. Failures or successes may be extraordinary, but many times, people who go through them are ordinary and much lesser than them, and the film understands it well.
Meghna is no super-human at handling success and treating people less successful than herself, and when she hits bottom real hard, she realizes with panic, how terribly wrong things have actually gone. Her come-back is just as believable and human - scarred, scared and reluctant, Meghna still goofs up her big second chance by embarrassingly freezing on the ramp. Similarly, Kangana's powerful wardrobe-malfunction scene dares you to put yourself into the shoes of a fallen-from-grace super-model who can do nothing to save face after her bustier snaps on national television.
Fashion is a woman-centric film, and Chopra has underlined the woman-centricity by giving her finest, fullest and richest performance till date - whether it is Meghna's initial awe of the big names, or her inept handling of success, or when she's shattered to bits at losing herself, or when she's asking friends for forgiveness, or when she's giving it back to those who hurt her. Yes, Bollywood's "thinking actresses" have serious, and more important, young, competition.
Kangana Ranaut's role is uni-dimensional - she's either depressed or sloshed crazy - but she has her brilliant moments, too. Mugdha Godse is allright, and gets to do more acting than modeling.
There is a lot of eye-candy for the women, too. Arjan Bajwa could have had a larger role, and could have done with a lesser heart-break, but, well, he does not. Arbaaz Khan is good as the cold and detached Sarin who doesn't hesitate to use Meghna. Harsh Chhaya slightly overdoes the curt high-profile gay designer's role. Ashwin Mushran does well in his role as Meghna's friend, and the rest of the cast - Sameer Soni, Kitu Gidwani, Suchitra Pillai - fits in well.
The music is powerful, and they bring it on during the fashion shows - which oddly turns them into moments of high drama, despite those arrogantly inexpressive faces. The shots are beautiful (with fashion as the theme, they ought to be) - behind-the-scenes peeks, occasional glimpses of celebrities, and swishy fashion shows. However, there would have been a lot more intensity if those umpteen lonely and vulnerable moments carried lesser make-up.
Fashion is, ultimately, a Madhur Bhandarkar creation, so keep in mind that the chill you'll feel by the end is not merely because it's November.