'Fashion': Ramp revelations!
Review by Deepa Gahlot
He always picks up subjects that were right there in front of everyone, but nobody could see them. 'Fashion' could be said to be the third of his upper crust trilogy consisting of 'Page 3' and 'Corporate'—his most ambitious and stylish, but also his weakest, in that he uncharacteristically pulls his punches.
While he plunged into the seedy world of bars in 'Chandni Bar' or exposed high society hypocrisy in 'Page 3' or laid bare the beggar mafia in 'Traffic Signal', his 'Fashion' barely touches the rim of the couture industry. His characters are surprisingly naïve, unreasonably brittle and there is very little of the grime behind the glamour on show.
However, those who don't know much about the world of fashion, might find it an eye-opener. Bhandarkar's heroine Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) comes from Chandigarh to Mumbai to become a super model. She meets overtly helpful people, gay designers (not ALL are gay, surely); faces no struggle or exploitation and gets to the top without any problems--not at all convincing.
She replaces the reigning queen Sonali (Kangana Ranaut), a drug-addled, arrogant woman, who does not see her downfall coming. As soon as she becomes famous, Meghna becomes arrogant too, and goes down the smoke-booze-drug-sex route. She willingly becomes the mistress of fashion industry honcho, the married Abhijit Sareen (Arbaaz Khan), and her collapse comes when she gets pregnant and is quickly replaced by the next flavour of the season.
'Fashion' is about her fight to return to reclaim her place, and it is clear Bhandarkar is on her side— though his stand on successful women could be debated. Since the film sees just one group of the fashion power set, and just a handful of designers, Meghna's comparison is only with the wild Shonali (who faces the infamous wardrobe malfunction) or the placid Janet (Mugdha Godse), who realises her limitations and marries a gay designer (Samir Soni)-- what other models go through to get there and stay in the circuit is not even explored.
The director's one-dimensional view is that if a women has to succeed, she has to drop her morals, and once she gets where she wants to be, she cracks under pressure and starts to drink and do drugs. The fashion industry may have its ugly side, exploitation, anorexia, self-destruction (which the usually hard-hitting Bhandarkar glosses over), it is also frighteningly competitive and professional, with no room for weakness or failure. Bhandarkar's strength as a director gives 'Fashion' some really dramatic and disturbing high points – but one can't help thinking that had Bhandarkar really gone beyond the glamour (the mistreatment of the workers, manipulation of the media, and so on), he would have made a much better film. His sympathies always lie with the underdog and somehow neither Meghna nor Shonali seem like they deserve sympathy.
Despite its faults, misses and superficialities, 'Fashion' is worth a look because it's the first (and possibly only) film that will go down the ramp. And yes, the performances are first-rate—Priyanka leading the pack with a bold, no-holds barred act, or Kangana Ranaut doing the deranged number once again with vigour, or the quietly confident debutante Mugdha Godse.
Source: India Syndicate
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