The Dirty Woman

(Everything here is in my opinion only. You may disagree. I hope you do.)

There are very, very few women actors in Bollywood today who can take a role, make it theirs and deliver a performance that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. The less that is said about the movie The Dirty Picture, the more space that is saved on the internet or on paper. However, the only reason I was able to sit through the movie was Vidya Balan.

I grew up in a time when Silk Smitha seduced the small screen. She was the reason parents in my neighbourhood (and in countless other neighbourhoods) switched the TV channel abruptly in the middle of a song. Given this fact, I was curious to see what justice was done to the character of Silk.

I will place it on record here that Vidya is nothing like Silk – in appearence, in mannerisms, in the sheer veil of sleaze that Silk wore so brazenly. In her most seductive, moaning moments on screen in this move, Vidya is nowhere close to recreating the unique brand of soft porn suggestiveness that belonged to Silk and Silk alone. Well before I walked into the theater, I was disappointed with the choice of actress to portray her, and still maintain that the two are as alike as chalk and cheese.

And yet – I came away with two major revelations.

One – Vidya Balan is a powerhouse. From the initial scene where she manages to outrage an irate neighbour until the closing moments where she confronts grief with a hand that excessive alcohol has rendered unsteady, she lives the role to the hilt – saucy, brash and utterly in control of each emotion. No careless moment of overaction, no one scene where she could have brought just that bit more to the moment – a seamless balance of spontaneity and measured reaction.  Each time she faces despair with yet another chain of cigarettes, you can see the dawn of yet another clever, sometimes manipulative, idea on her brow. In spite of a storyline that should have been burnt at birth, I ached for the Silk onscreen when she broke down, begging for human company, and yet a mere two scenes later, she managed to leave me with a trace of guilty shame – dare I pity THE Silk Smitha?

Two – it is possible to take a role and create something else out of it altogether, fitting it around you to take part of your persona. While I watched Vidya sway and swagger on screen, I managed to forget that this was not the quintessential Silk Smitha – well, perhaps except for a couple of moments when her innate classiness owerwhelmed her intended tawdry portrayal of the vamp. What I did take home however was a new version of Silk altogether – and I liked this one; I loved her intensity, her unabashed defence of her image, her fiery comebacks. This was a different kind of appeal. I came away with respect for an actor who moulded the role to herself, delivering the performance of a lifetime. I tried to think of one other actor of today, any peer of hers, who could have played this role with the same level of conviction. I could find no one.

Well done, Vidya Balan. If this is what you can do with a joke of a movie… For God’s sake, woman, take on more roles!


5 thoughts on “The Dirty Woman

  1. So I saw this movie twice. Ya, twice in one week. Prolly cuz it reminds me of the Silk era we grew up in.. also because, its such a dramatic movie. If I were to ever watch it again, it most definitely will not be on my tv.

    I cant agree more when you say Vidya is way way different from the Silk we know. I even kept cribbing why Ekta would want a Vidya Balan who is this chamathu-ponnu, Vidya is this girl-next-door, oh-so-pretty, indian beauty.. and silk.. she could just mouth “Maggi is bad for health” for all I care and make it sound dirty. The pout, the sultry eyes, horrendous costumes and more importantly the tone of her voice interspersed with hmms and moans.. Vidya, or prolly nobody can ever get there, even if they tried 😀

    Silk and people like silk were the reason why my parents banned movie songs in the house – really. And yet, I was happy to sit back and watch .. relive that era. When I saw the polka dots and black lip stick.. I think Vidya most definitely came close. Just one word for Vidya Balan


    There were scenes where I felt she came really close to portraying what could have been silk. And Silk lives even as we dissect the movie..

    Well said, Pri!
    – Ramaa

  2. I haven’t seen this movie yet but am planning to, this weekend. I think a part of the problem is that Vidya Balan looks too classy and sophisticated to portray the raw sensuousness of Silk Smitha. She has grabbed this role and done it the way only she can. I was discussing with some friends about who else among the current crop of actresses could have played this role well other than Vidya, and we came up with nothing.

    – Ramaa

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