I am back (Applause?). And decided to watch Fashion. I suppose all that travelling did end up addling my brain.

I think Madhur’s a decent filmmaker. I also think he’s been milking this ‘high-society exposé’ bit for too long now (Traffic Signal being an exception). Here he comes back to what he’s been doing since Page 3 – and somehow, after watching all his films since Page 3, the effect seems diluted. For one, watching yet another film created in the same mould was tiring. And Madhur, usually ever aware of the value of brevity, goes and makes an interminably long film. The upshot is, not only are you watching something you’ve watched before, you’re watching more of it.

What about the film itself? With a plot that would have made a just-about-tolerable 60 minute film, you can guess what I have to say about that. It’s a very tired, hackneyed story. Small-town Girl wants to make it big in the fashion world. Typical Indian Father sulks, but she heads to Mumbai anyway. With stars in her eyes, a couple of suitcases and a roll of fat around her tummy. Then comes the ‘struggling phase’; except she never really struggles (I know people who have struggled, and believe me, this was no struggle!)…..and some time later, is on her way to success. With success comes arrogance, and with arrogance comes downfall. And then, since we like our movies to give us hope in these dark times, there’s resurrection and redemption. That’s it. Complexity, layering and freshness are obviously things this director can’t be accused of.

Madhur’s world is populated with stereotypes. Nothing new there. All male fashion designers are gay. All ‘good’ girls have been raised with ‘Indian’ values – ergo, no alcohol, no tobacco and obviously no sex. But wait – there’s hope in the big bad city. Don’t write them off just yet. Madhur gives us every cliché in the book when it comes to successful women in the larger entertainment world. So, after the mandatory, perfunctory protestations, out comes the alcohol. Then comes the tobacco and then comes the sex. Or did the sex come before the tobacco? I forget. Anyway, after the sex, there’s coke. And, just to rub our faces in the fact that smoking’s not quite Sunday school, the director reinforces this with the plot structure: we know Priyanka is well and truly on her way down when she lights up, just before the interval. And somewhere in between the (awkwardly shot) lusting and the smoking and the drinking and the snorting, there’s the evergreen ‘main tumhare bachche ki maa banne wali hoon’ moment. Thankfully, the moment’s in English. I would have regurgitated my dinner if it were said in Hindi.

The film is badly shot. A good cinematographer would’ve shot the film in a way that didn’t make Priyanka look fat. Given Madhur’s penchant for ‘realistic’ films, one might’ve thought the casting would be better. Priyanka, god bless her, doesn’t look like a ramp model from any angle. She’s carrying excess weight and it shows. Kangana is the only one who looks the part, and she does a great job. Though I do think she was made to be a movie star in the Silent Era. Mughda is competent, and will hopefully invest the proceeds of this film in a good orthodontist. Harsh Chhaya is excellent as the effeminate designer who lisps. The less said about Arbaaz, the better.

The film says nothing new, reinforces clichés and, for a film set in the fashion world, looks really tacky. That’s three reasons right there for it to appeal to the discerning Indian audience.