Guilty Pleasures – The Dirty Picture and Lovelace

The Dirty Picture - exploitative cinema

This article reminds me why I didn’t like ‘The Dirty Picture‘.  Particularly the headline:

The new biopic of ‘pioneering’ porn star Linda Lovelace wants it both ways – (the) film fetishises the 70s porn style, then tuts at all the exploitation.

Which is the case with The Dirty Picture, as I see it. Everybody I knew enjoyed the film – some watching it multiple times – and they all had their own professed reasons: some liked the ‘punchy’ dialogue, while others the songs (these were mostly people who grew up in the 80s). And of course, there was the fact that you got the chance to see skin on the screen without being made to feel guilty about it.

Both films are based on the lives of real women who were in exploitative films and both are set in an era where fashion and music were very different from current trends – Lovelace in the 70s and TDP in the 80s. Watching TDP, I certainly felt that the actors and directors (even the music directors and singers) spent more time having fun with the retro portion – planning out song picturisation sequences and lyrics – rather than working on the script or dialogue. It makes sense; everybody loves playing dress up, even actors, and the more outlandish, the better. I guess that has something to do with why actors love doing period films.

Worse than that, though, I found the direction to be too heavy handed – as just one example (it’s the only one I can recall now):

Naseerudin Shah’s character, the aging superstar Suryakant, is feeling threatened by the rise of his mistress Silk (that name is another rant that I won’t get into now). At one point, he’s just given an interview to a journalist from a film magazine. He’s assured it’ll appear in the next issue. He hears that the magazine also sent a journalist to Silk’s house for a few photos. When the issue comes out, he asks his PA to find his interview. Instead, the PA finds Silk’s multipage photos pread.

Now, Suryakant has been established as a man with a big ego. At the end of the above scene, when the PA asks him what’s wrong, I fully expected him to say, ‘Nothing,’ even though it’s obvious to us what’s wrong – his interview has been dumped in favour of Silk’s photo spread.

Instead, Suryakant with the gigantic ego admits to his PA that he has been supplanted by Silk – saying something like, ‘Yaar, the magazine promised to run my interview, but they didn’t!’

Which was a superfluous line, and completely out of character. There are other instances of the ‘heavy’ directing – notably, characters speaking their thoughts out loud in single line soliloquys – which, WHY? They went out of fashion in the late 18th century! And even then, they made some sense in plays, but in films, you have the choice of voice overs to express thoughts. Which was horribly overused by Emran Hashmi’s character, anyway, so it’s not like the director doesn’t know voice overs exist.

It annoys me that filmmakers seem to think the audience is made of idiots who won’t understand anything unless its over-emphasised.

Worst of all though, was the fact that TDP tried – and succeeded – in having its cake and eating it, too. In the beginning of the film, it draws people in with the skin show – which is sleazy, but protected under the shield of ‘it’s a mirror of it’s times, it’s meant to be sleazy’ – and the retro songs and the snappy, puerile dialogue.

In the second half, it raps the same people on their knuckles, saying, ‘Did you enjoy the sleaze? Well then, shame on you, you’re the reason why Indian society is so screwed up and repressed!’

The worst part is that it succeeded – a lot people I saw the film with left saying things like, ‘Oh yes, it’s true, Indian society is to blame for all the Silks and the Mallika Sherawats…if there was no one to watch their films or songs, they wouldn’t be in business.’ Completely ignoring the fact that they’d just seen an exploitative film.

Compare this with ‘Heroine‘, which, while touching on a similar subject, takes a different route. The protagonist of ‘Heroine’ is desperate to promote her only film, so she releases a homemade, self filmed sex film. We’re shown it being filmed (via mobile) but it doesn’t cross into the sleaze category. While TDP is exploitative, ‘Heroine’, for all its faults, is not.

(And yes, ‘Heroine’ is a horrible, boring movie, as well. The Sidney Sheldon-eque plot, the melodrama, the half baked Freudian excuses for the protagonist behaving the way she does – it goes on.)

I wonder when Indian mainstream films are finally going to grow up.


  1. Watch Gangs of Wassepur 1 and 2, Saheb Biwi aur Gangster, Rang De Basati, Udaan, Swadesh, Ishqiya , Tare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, Kahani, A Wednesday, English Vinglish and Recent movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag you can say Film Making and Audience Choice are changing. Believe me you will love them.

    • you can say Film Making and Audience Choice are changing

      Of course. It’s not to say that movies aren’t progressing. Perhaps my last line was too much of a generalisation – most mainstream movies, regardless of where they’re made, are the same way when it comes to depicting women, because the fact is that sex sells.

      I haven’t seen Gangs (not interested in the violence, or yet another gangster themed movie) or ‘Saheb, Biwi or Gangster’ (same reason). I found ‘3 Idiots’ and ‘Taare Zameen Par’ to be too preachy for my taste. ‘Rang De Basanti’ was simply emotional without any clear message. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ didn’t need the love stories.

      Yes, I’m a picky movie watcher!

      I did like ‘Kahani’, ‘A Wednesday’ and ‘English Vinglish’, though.

  2. Anonymous

    GOW is superb movie for its plot contains the history of a small place in Bihar (Wasseypur) from 1947 to 2012 – Superb plot –> Awesome dialogues –> Awesome characters plus catchy songs by Sneha Khanwalkar (She is one of the only female music directors and she is awesome (very proud of her :) :) :) :) :)

    I would not say that it is a flawless movie but you cant miss it and also you must be naive to call it yet another gangster themed movie because it is not. Please do not degrade the movie if you have not seen it – No hard feelings; nobody has the right to comment on your stories without reading them and similarly you do not have the right to comment on GOW if you havent seen it.

    You are a writer/author – you would learn a lot from this movie and also like how some of the characters have been created. I do not want to further up your expectation as you would still be like “I do not like the movie” :P

    It is good to be picky but you cant be cynical. You can choose to be cynical also but cant miss the beauty of small things. Example:

    A girl may not be the most pretty girl in the world but still her eyes may be the most beautiful in the world. PS: This is just an example and in no way is this sexist. :) :) :)

    Yours only

    Your greatest critic will be your greatest well-wisher (This has been created by me – specially for you :) :)

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