Where Dirty Overshadows The Dark

December 4, 2011 at 9:15 PMDec (Cinema, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

The character of Nyla (played by Anju Mahendroo) in the film The Dirty Picture at one point of the film says, “Samajh mein nahi aa raha hai Silk ko kya kahoon- baazaari ya bechaari, a vamp or a victim?” The film directed by Milan Luthria also seem to be a bit confused like one of its character as to what Silk was- a bazaari or a bechaari, a vamp or a victim!

Perplexity, as Gibran said, is the beginning of knowledge. The tragedy is when perplexity remains and doesn’t translate itself into understanding or knowledge.

Inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, the film The Dirty Picture, seem to have failed, in spite of all its efforts, to understand Silk Smitha. The physiology is fine, but what essentially remains missing, in intensity, is the sociology of Silk and more importantly the psychology.

The audience can see the ‘dirty’ on screen but not the ‘dark’ and there remains the untold story unsaid. The director of the film, in an interview, said that while convincing Vidya for the role of Silk he told her that he would not exploit but would explore. With all his efforts he has failed to explore completely. Good effort but not enough.

But at the same time has not exploited and for that he deserves applause. He explores, not just the story of Silk Smitha, but also the body without making it too vulgar and like a soft-porn while he could have. He truly deserves a pat on the back for the same and Vidya Balan too deserves a standing ovation for carrying the role so well. Not just carrying but balancing between vulgarity and “body as the message”.

The tragedy of Silk was not that she couldn’t handle stardom and that she lost market. That too might have been one of the reasons, but those alone couldn’t have sealed life with suicide. The tragedy of Silk was not just the dark circle, the bloating cheek, the bulging belly and spilling hips. When a heroine loses her figure she loses her market and she loses her popularity too. At that point the industry and the people of the industry sweep the earlier stars to the corner. This is tragedy yes, but it is the social tragedy of Silk. But there was, I believe, more to the tragedy of Silk which created a state of mind which sealed her life with suicide.

The tragedy was what Mahesh Bhat recollects as, “Her eyes had an unhealthy vacant look. When one tried to talk to her, one realized there was nobody ‘home’… Silk was treading an emotional knife-edge and the abyss was beckoning her.” That is why Mr. Bhat says he was not shocked when the news of Silk committing suicide reached him for he saw it coming.

The director hints the tragedy of her inner world when he makes Silk rest on the shoulders of Abraham (played by Emraan Hasmi) while a romantic relationship is sprouting between the two. He hints at the tragedy while Silk’s mother slams the door on her face and also by making Silk act as her own mother when a reputed magazine asks for an interview with her mother. The loss of family and friends and a companion leading to the creation of an emotional vacuum get a passing reference in the film. But the film doesn’t stop for a while in her emotional vacuum and be with her in her loneliness.

Another tragedy of Silk was that she wanted to become an actress not star. But she was made to be a ‘body’ and never to rise to the level of a ‘character’, though her body got her stardom. Even in the beginning of the film she says, “Mujhe actor ban’na hai.” This dream remains unrealized and she remained more of a flesh and blood for the film industry and the film viewers. She colouring herself up before committing suicide is an indication of she wanting to ‘act’ for the screen and not just dance or create a sensation. Incidentally she wears a saree while committing suicide! This tragedy of being reduced to a body, fails to come across in the film.

Yes, her body was her message, as Paul Zacharia put it. Her message had a revolt in it. But it must have caused pain to be seen only as a body and the commodification of the body to be seen only through lust filled eyes. In one of her films- Neengalum Herothaan- Silk Smitha playing the role of a heroine when seen as object by the villagers during a shoot says, “Why do you see women like me as objects? Why cant you see us as humans with feelings?” Was it also something which Silk Smitha wanted to say in real life? In all possibilities…

But the same body had nobody to pick up when it was lying in the mortuary. It was a violent death, as Paul Zacharia said. But violent was also the way her body was treated after death. It was the same body which drew people crazy, but without life. Sadly nobody cared for the life within the body and just saw the life in the body. That too till the life existed in the body.

Though the director sincerely makes an effort to explore the inner world of Silk Smitha, most of the times, he remains only at the skin level. With all his sincere efforts the director could not bring the complexities of the inner world of Silk Smitha on screen. He struggles to understand her but it seems like in trying to negotiate with the market and the craft of mainstream Bombay cinema, he has failed to grasp the complexities of the ‘sensation of a bygone era.’ The over stressed scene of she looking at herself while she has lost the charm of her body, also indicating she losing her identity and popularity, and at the same time recollecting the old days of glory or in one of her last scenes by making her colour up herself, the director reduced her tragedy to her body. The inner world collapsing doesn’t come across as strongly as it could have existed. The loneliness and unrealized dream is overshadowed majorly by her insecurity and her body getting disfigured. The dirty overshadows the dark.

A lot of praise has come Vidya Balan’s way for her performance in the film and every pixel of every praise is well deserved. But the talent and abilities of Vidya is well known since her debut. She just proved herself again. The real discovery of the film is Emraan Hashmi! This man is with semi-nude heroines, like in his almost every film, but he manages to give the exact opposite expression of what he has been repeating almost all his film (remember the scene in the film where Vidya, as Silk, says “roz wahi scene wahi script. Naya hai hee kya?”) He acts. He proves that he too can act. But he has always been employed as a “serial kisser.” His acting skills like that of Silk Smitha is less recognized in comparison to the sensation he can create with his kissing like the way Silk Smitha could do with her body. His acting skills is a real discovery in the film. But still, Vidya performs in such perfection that Emraan is likely to be unrecognized for his performance like Silk Smitha was for her performance in Sadma where Sri Devi and Kamal Hassan bagged all the praise for their performance.

With all this the dirty picture remains incomplete without the darker side remaining under exposed and under explored. The unknown story remains untold. The real story remains untold. The complexities of the story remain less understood in spite of all the sincere efforts. But in the end not just a story remains unsaid and unexplored but remains confusion as to what was Silk? Was she a vamp or a victim?


  1. malathi S said,

    Excellente dear Samvartha!! am sharing this on facebook.
    malathi S

  2. balaji said,

    sir u really rock ur awesome i totally support ur views go ahead

  3. Laxmi said,

    One of the best reviews I have ever read!!! 🙂 Brilliant… Such beautiful critique…. 🙂

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