Heroine is a patchy work of cinema, but, ultimately, it communicates. Honesty and self-reflection are not prized in an industry that is as cynical, transactional and incestuous in its creation and destruction of movie stars as is Bollywood. Introspection suits it ill, and since Heroine very clearly identifies film journalism as being a part of the contractual operations of movie star invention and closure, Bhandarkar’s film is not likely to be greeted with media cheer.
It is creditable, however, that bluntly as the director goes about it, the movie gives you pause in its seamy revelations, and, by the end, is surprisingly emotional in its presentation of the utter loneliness that fame, and the inevitable fading of it, can cause. Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor) is an insecure woman and a big movie star when the film begins. Her unstable temperament, at first, works as an asset because it gives her a persona that gels well with the characters she plays. She has a very public relationship with an actor who is her screen lover (Arjun Rampal) and also very public spats with him. This highly charged on-off pairing works till the inherent longevity of a male star in Bollywood does Mahi in.
The short shelf life of an actress means that her boyfriend has to move on in his work and personal life. Traumatised by this reality, Mahi hires a public relations manager (Divya Dutta) who reinvents her as a ‘brand’, arranges for her to date a popular cricketer (Randeep Hooda) and dramatically stage-manages steamy ‘revelations’.
What is most creditable is the way Mahi’s looks and sex appeal go to pieces as her character starts to disintegrate. Desperate to stay afloat in the business, she loses her soul, and her ravaged appearance mirrors this. In an industry obsessed with beauty, this is Kareena’s most courageous role.
Though the bit roles in Heroine are unnecessary caricatures, the lead performers hold your attention.