*may contain spoilers*

Evocative, heart wrenching and brutally honest. If I had to describe Fashion in three words, that's what initially comes to mind. Madhur Bhandarkar's foray into the world of fashion delves deep beyond the runways and glossy magazine covers to take a somewhat realistic, and somewhat trite, look at the lives of "the beautiful people" focusing more on the dirty underbelly of the industry than anything else.

The movie follows three fashion models, in all their glory and despair, at different stages in their careers. The movie's central character is Meghna Mathur, the dewy fresh and slightly naive small town girl moves to Mumbai with dreams of super stardom and a ferocious drive to succeed. Meghna is definitely Priyanka's meatiest role to date and I think she delivers with gusto! She acts, at first, like a fish out of water, completely innocent in this world of decadence. How refreshing to see someone stand by their convictions, though that thought doesn't last for long as we witness Meghna's accelerated rise to stardom and her convincing transformation to runway vamp. She has some truly stellar moments in the movie, like the one where she lets a little secret slip in front of Abhijit Sarin's wife. Classic meow!

Eager and new in town!

Who paid the hospital bills? Oh, it was your husband!

Hitting rock bottom

Priyanka looking a lot like Angelina Jolie...

...and strangely a little like Katherine Heigl

While Meghna's is the more dominant role, she shares the screen with Kangna Ranaut and newcomer Mugdha Godse. Kangna was born to play Shonali, the fine-boned, wild-maned impetuous reigning queen of the ramp, while Mugdha plays Janet, the worldly long-time model who's never quite gotten her big break. Shonali's character, though riddled with every cliche in the modelling handbook (drug problem, abusive boyfriend, wardrobe malfunction), was still deeply intriguing. Based on the real life story of model Gitanjali Nagpal, Kangna's depiction, her expressions and delivery were all brilliant and I truly felt her despair and she brought out her character's flaws and frailties. On the other hand, I didn't connect with Mugdha's character at all. I suppose Janet's role in the movie was to try and be the voice of reason for Meghna, but she just fell flat for me. I think the movie would not have suffered had her character perhaps just been there at the beginning to help introduce Meghna to the world of modelling.

Shonali tries to give Meghna experienced advice

Holding up under pressure...

...and succumbing to humiliation

Despite Madhur Bhandarkar's insistence that Fashion is the result of diligent research, the film is riddled with stereotypes, most which can be seen in the supporting cast. Besides our relentlessly vapid, booze chugging, cigarette smoking models, the majority of the gay characters flounce and lisp (I actually found Ashwin Mushran quite annoying - even with all of his good intentions), with the exception of Rahul Aurora, the only gay character not "out" (whose decision to stay in the closet indefinitely and live his life a lie was heart breaking in itself). A more diverse look at these two lifestyles may have been more credible. However, I did quite enjoy Arjan Bajwa as our lone male model and Meghna's initial love interest. Handsome and sensible, Manav does his best to keep his girlfriend grounded, though their parting in inevitable. Kitu Gidwani as the magazine editor of Panache is controlled and fun to watch, as is Arbaaz Khan, the fashion czar who makes and breaks careers based on what happens in the bedroom. Who didn't see his and Meghna's "hook-up" coming from a mile away?

Who is this fine young man?

Oh, he's a model! Yummy!

I wouldn't classify this one as a standard hindi film in terms of music, as there is no item song and no big dance numbers, both of which would have been completely out of place. Composed by Salim-Sulaiman (with lyrics by Sandeep Nath and Irfan Siddique), the movie has only 5 original tracks, including the theme song, and a handful of remixes. While the majority of the songs have a feel that keeps up with the contemporary urban mood of the movie, others are almost hypnotizing. From electric guitar and western rap in Fashion Ka Jalwa to santoor and strings in Theme Of Fashion, the film's background score, it is an eclectic combination of music for sure, but it's Mar Jawaan, which is haunting and beautiful all at once and sums up the tone of the movie leaving a lasting impression on you long after the credits have rolled.

Meghna gets some bad news

But the show must go on!

As one who self-admittedly doesn't know a lot about the fashion world, I think you have to take Bhandarkar's depiction with a grain of salt. In and amongst the backstabbing, the casting couch, the drugs and alcohol, I'm sure there is more to this glamorous industry like beauty, hard work, triumph and even some genius. That being said, while Fashion is definitely a sombre movie going experience, I found it fascinating - kind of like watching a train wreck - but at the end of it all, we are given a little slice of redemption, and that's the best kind.

12 Response to "Fashion"

  1. Bhargav Saikia says:
    July 23, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    I enjoyed Fashion although it was a tad too long. I wasn't a Kangana Ranaut fan, but Fashion changed that. I wish she had a better accent though!

  2. theBollywoodFan says:
    July 23, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    I like Bhandarkar's films, but from the ones I've seen, I like this one the least. Not sure why that is. Perhaps it's almost as if he's treating them operationally now, but I tend to say that because it's the only kind of films I associate him with. Thanks for the review. Maybe I need to rewatch to better appreciate it.

  3. shell says:
    July 23, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    @ Bhargav Saikia - I don't know too much about the accent part, but I thought she was pretty decent. I didn't find it long, but then again I didn't watch it all in one shot. Maybe if I actually get a chance to watch a movie all at once I might start to feel the same.

    @theBollywoodFan - I haven't seen any of his other films (though Traffic Signal was on a 2 for 1 I bought some time ago. A rewatch may be in order, a sometimes things get better the more you see or hear them, but I think that initial impressions count for a lot too.

  4. bollywooddeewana says:
    July 23, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    I loved watching fashion however i found the scene where Meghna wakes up and then realises her life has hit a new low due to a one night stand with a black guy very offensive,

    could it have been the fact that she woke up drunk and having random sex that made her realise she had hit a new low?

    Is sex with a black man such a lowly thing for an Indian woman to partake in?

    These were questions that i kept pondering over and i would infact like to ask Madhur should i come across him some day

    What did you think about that scene, did you have similar thoughts or it never occured to you, I would love to know

  5. Anonymous Says:
    July 23, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    Please watch Madhur Bandarkar's "Corporate" (Bipasha has done a fab job) and "Sutta" - both are really good movies.

  6. shell says:
    July 24, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    @ bollywooddeewana - That scene absolutely did not go unnoticed. At first I just recognized it as a one night stand, but then wondered why Meghna seemed so distraught over it - after all one night stands happen all the time, even to "regular" people. It wasn't until I read a review on where this person referenced that scene actually using a derogatory word that I thought it had to do more with the person than the act, which did made me completely sick. I don't know the answer to your questions. I sincerely hope it's the first one.

    @ Anonymous - thanks for the suggestions.

  7. Daddy's Girl says:
    July 24, 2009 at 2:42 PM

    I agree with you on the use of broad stereotypes in this film... while I found it very interesting to watch, it's probably not very realistic. But I thought the acting (especially by the leads) was very good, and was what actually made this as enjoyable as I found it. I definitely think this was Priyanka's best performance so far, and Kangana always shines in these types of roles (check her out in 'Gangster' and 'Life in a Metro').

    To a more serious matter.... Like bollywood deewana, I do find the choice of a black man for Meghna's 'rock-bottom' moment very telling. True, it was a one night stand with someone she didn't even remember, and that was traumatic for Meghna in itself, but I do think they cast a black person to show how 'low' this 'good Indian girl' had 'sunk'. I've been to India, and there really aren't a lot of black people there (not even in Mumbai), so it would be very hard to convince me that this character's race was just a random coincidence. I do think Bhandarkar was saying 'how horrible, now she is reduced to having drunken sex with a black man'. I think Bhandarkar would have a very hard time explaining the scene as anything but that. And I think that's a shame and truly unfortunate.

    PS I ADORE 'Mar jawan'!

  8. shell says:
    July 24, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    @ Daddy's Girl - Life in a Metro I think is coming to me from I would definitely watch more of Kangana.

    I suppose it's naive to think that racism doesn't happen all over the world, but it is very disappointing to think that a director would knowingly apply such a negative connotation to even one scene in a film - unless the movie itself was about racism or he was trying to shed some light on the situation (which I don't believe was his intention).
    Boo, Madhur, boo.

  9. Anonymous Says:
    July 25, 2009 at 1:58 AM

    I don't recollect this particular scene in Fashion - perhaps escaped my attention. However agree with DG's observations and also some one else who has pointed this out. DG- some times south indians and bengalis (who are relatively dark brown when compared to other fairer indians) too face a lot of difficulties. Not justifying Bhandarkar here (definitely not my cup of tea) but just sharing a thought.

  10. shell says:
    July 25, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    some times south indians and bengalis (who are relatively dark brown when compared to other fairer indians) too face a lot of difficulties.

    Thanks for your observations. I have read that darker skinned Indians face challenges over there, which is truly a shame, especially with all those celebrities endorsing fairness cream (and I believe SRK was one of them. shame.) Like we don't have enough issues globally that we have to create problems internally.

  11. Anishok says:
    April 18, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    As one who self-admittedly doesn't know a lot about the fashion world, I think you have to take Bhandarkar's depiction with a grain of salt.

    With a whole bucket of salt :P

    I think you pretty much summed up the way I feel about this movie...It's not gritty realism at all!
    I also think Madhur could have given Priyanka's character more scope, she really didn't have anything to work with. I didn't understand her choices, her motivation, the reason for her ambitions...

    P.S. I wish you had at least one screencap of Arbaaz, he killed the buzzcut look :D

  12. Shell says:
    April 19, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    If you look hard enough you can see the corner of Arbaaz head! I think I almost put one of him in there during the scene where Priyanka pretty much lets her affair with Sarin slip.

    Not gritty realism for sure. Hope you enjoyed Jodah Akbaar more!