Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fashion-bashin'

Fashion is among the worst films I have ever seen, any language, any culture, any decade, whatever. It's dreadful. I do not understand what anyone involved with this script was thinking. Filmfare award for best actress aside - inexplicable and very, very far aside, in my opinion* - Priyanka Chopra is blank-eyed and blinkingly unconvincing as a character we are told over and over again will be a star because she has enough attitude to make up for her inexperience and horrendous choices. The idea that an almost unknown struggler in the industry would be given a role in a high-profile show by an agent who has never seen the model walk seems so stupid - let alone the idea that said model would have the gall to walk into an agency office to put herself forward for assignments without ever having walked in a show. Meghna voice-overs how she has dreamed of being a supermodel - not just the face of a department store brand or shampoo, mind - yet thinks scrunchies are appropriate

and is uncomfortable wearing lingerie for a photo shoot. Honey, what did you think you were going to have to do? Were you planning to be a caftan-only supermodel? It's fine not to want to show your goodies (which of course were still quite covered up in said lingerie shoot), but why are you so stupid about a job that you long for? And it's not as though seeing what supermodels have to wear is information that's difficult to come by - seeing what they wear is the whole effing point of the job! There's ignorance and naiveté, and then there's stupidity, and I think Meghna's mindset and decisions often fell under the latter. I assume the story was trying to show that the fashion industry preys on the weak and today chews up those it admired yesterday, but most of the damage I saw Meghna suffer was her own damn fault.

About halfway through the movie, I had to stop, unsure if I could bring myself to finish such an unrewarding task when there were so many better things I could be doing. I went in search of the professionals' views on what to me was quickly becoming a massive waste of time. Baradwaj Rangan points out that we never see Meghna experience any of the highs that motivate anyone to stick in this back-stabbing, people-eating world - and in turn, we viewers get zero sense of her motivation. Why does she want to be a supermodel so badly? Why would someone sign up to do things that make them so uncomfortable with no payoff? Who knows! There's not even a cheesy montage of trying on fabulous clothes and jet-setting around the world. This problem becomes even worse when Meghna returns to the industry after her tumble from popularity - so now we know that Meghna knows that the industry is horrible, so why does she want to go back? Based on what the movie shows us, there's nothing but deterrent in her life. Not to mention how difficult it is to empathize or sympathize with a person who is voluntarily re-enlisting for as damaging and draining yet totally self-centered lifestyle as...modeling. If she had burned out on being a doctor, a teacher - hell, even a designer - something creative, something that gives people joy, something that makes the world a better place - I might have admired her. Maybe it should be enough for me that the character states that this is her dream, but since I see no benefit from her dream to either her or humanity generally, I figure she's far less determined than she is unable to learn life lessons and make responsible decisions. Then again, the writers hardly spent any energy telling us about her thought processes and reactions during her fall and recovery, so it's hard to guess what, if anything, Meghna has absorbed from her first round, so maybe it's unfair to hope a character will act on resources we're not sure they have.

Raja Sen gave Fashion a prize "celebrating special achievement in awfulness," citing the director Madhur Bhandarkar's foolish self-congratulatory nods



and racism - oh the horror of a pretty pretty image-centered girl hitting on and sleeping with a black man! how loud and clear the wake-up call she needs to snap out of her decline and fall! this is even worse than cutting off your hair to chin-length! -

in addition to general failure to tell us anything novel or interesting about the Mumbai fashion world. To racism I'll add two stereotype-revelling depictions of gay male designers.

Yes, he is literally limp-wristed, lisping, and wearing a pink cravat. Two of the three major gay characters are denied any kind of love life, as far as we see on screen; on the other hand, a minor gay character who is some sort of player in the industry is shown as far more predatory than Arbaaz Khan's corporate head who has an affair with Meghna. And speaking of love lives, how 'bout that particular sort of puritanism that keeps in scenes of drug use but won't show us a stable, committed homosexual couple?


I have only four nice things to say about this movie. 1) It at least showed a taste of what the working conditions are like for the people who actually make the clothes. For a movie that seems to have wanted to have bite and to expose, especially in a major textile center like India, more of this would have been even better.

2) I agree with Filmi Girl's point that it is a refreshing change to see the woman in a relationship be the person who decides to put her career first, outpaces her male partner, and does not regret it. Unfortunately the script undid a lot of this independence- and career-positive work by having her sleep with a boss and crack under the pressure of success, as though it was saying "Look what happens when women aim for the top of their chosen line of work!" 3) One of the three major gay male characters was portrayed as a totally normal, non-affected person who tried to make the best of a bad situation. I wish the film had had another option for him than giving up his boyfriend to get married and closing off a portion of his life that was meaningful to him - with the dialogue "When you can't come out with the truth, it's time to live a lie." Ouch. 4) As readers of Bollywood Fugly know, I relish any chance for crazy movie costumes, and Fashion did not disappoint. I could have used more, but I can always use more.

There's a lot more to hate in Fashion - dubbing that sounds stagy, footsteps that are far too loud, facile characterizations, uninteresting people, unimpressive acting, and drug scenes that brought back memories of After School Specials from the 70s and 80s (ANGEL DUST!) (though not nearly as laughable as Sridevi's freakout in Janbaaz), blatant irony -

but for my sanity's sake, I will end with one problem that is dear to many subtitle-reading hearts: English subtitles that do not match English dialogue. One of my favorites folllowed a swimsuit runway show, when someone refers to La Perla as a luxury brand - good, good, totally normal term - but the subtitles say "lovely brand." Not a boost to the film's fashion industry cred. We see "fool" for "bastard," "beautiful" for "sexy," and "lousy woman" for "bitch." A famous lousy-woman-y designer demands a fashion show staffer arrange for him to get a front-row seat, screaming "You know who I am!!!", and the subtitles say "You know where!" What? And perhaps best of all, a photographer tells a model “Go get a dress change,” but the subtitles say "Go to the rest room." I almost hope the subtitle-makers (or automatic generator - it's hard to tell which is more likely to produce the above results) are the same people as the actual writers, because that would explain why we also get dud lines like these:


Clearly they blew their creative juices on transcription WTFery.

And I think degenerating into "WTFery" means this is as good a place as any to stop, don't you? There's nothing worth holding on to in this movie, nothing to engage you, nothing to remember. Unless Michael Kors, Tim Gunn, and Tyra Banks release their own MST3K version of Fashion, I never want to think about it again.

* And I know this is a movie and all, but as I read somewhere when the film came out, neither Priayanka nor Kangana Ranaut really look like the 2007-ish-era supermodels they're supposed to be - to be blunt, they have curves like most women do and do not look like heroin-addict nine-year-old boys that you most often see in major fashion publications in the last few years. Priyanka Chopra is a women-lover's version of beautiful, not the fashion industry's.

26 comments:

memsaab said...

Kangana Ranaut has at least had enough plastic surgery so that she looks completely different than she did four years ago.

I am glad I didn't go for this. Thanks for taking the bullet for me :-)

Sharon said...

I haven't seen the whole movie, but I did catch bits of it on TV - specifically the downward spiral - and the bit where she realises she's hit rock bottom because omg she slept with a black guy made me laugh out loud.

I really don't know what it says about brown people that sleeping with someone of african descent is apparently acceptable screen shorthand for someone's personal low point. :-(

Jon said...

Hey I completely agree with you buddy...

I don't appreciate Madhu as a film maker. His script resembles a third-rate novel. Fashion was not the only disaster but another one of his disaster.

But does it matter in B-wood at all. PC ended up grabbing almost all the awars for the est actress .

PC sleeping with the black man was the worst. He could have shown an old man or hideous looking man. I cant believe Madhur who caims to do socially relevant films exibhited this racist scene.

And I felt Ranuat was miles ahead of PC in terms of acting

Filmi Girl said...

I fully admit that I was drooling too much over Kangana Ranaut to have a valid opinion on this film. I can't help it! She is fierce in this!

You forgot to mention that Fashion is the reason ex-model Mugdha Godse thinks she is an "actress" and not an ex-model. ALSO, with the Madhur scandal with him raping that girl he promised to give work to making the news again, do you think he wrote himself in as Priyanka's slimy boss?

bollywooddeewana said...

This film really does have to be taken with a pinch of salt, you do make some valid points which i myself pointed out while i was watching, I for one was a bit shocked at the scene with the black guy and i thought how dare Madhu Bhandarkar but then, i thought is this what some people in India think, i remember watching Bend it like Beckham years ago and the main Female Asian character (Parminder Nagra) made a comment along the lines of if i marry/date a white guy its cool but a black guy my parent's would kill me, thus perhaps Madhu was trying to portray how Interracial relationships are seen by some in India

Overall although i noticed the flaws i enjoyed the movie in a soap operaish kind of way. I loved some of the sets too in particular the catwalk with the humungous fan blades

SpyGirl said...

Nooo! I think the computer ate my previous comment!
What I said (mostly):

I mentioned on Twitter to Beth that I kinda liked this movie so now I have to explain myself. :)

First of all, Shonali (Kangana Ranaut) was mesmerizing.

And it was interesting to see how they clearly thought they were portraying these serious real-life scenarios, when really it was their awkward filmi version of reality instead. Everything was just a little bit off. I was entertained by observing the difference between the two. Also, it made me think about how many other films must be skewed in that way but I don't know enough about the reality (as others see it; what is reality, anyways?) to know better.

So there's maybe a bit of difference between liking the film and thinking it was good.

Also, confession time, I thought it was funny when she was so distraught over having to model in her underwear. I think she actually cried, didn't she? I felt bad for laughing, but I couldn't help it.

rhilex said...

Yeeeaaahhh... Might have to cross this one off my list. Seen one-too-many reviews like this. Maybe if it's one youtube one day I'll watch it for subtitle and lingerie-uncomfortableness lolz.

What kind of dork puts himself in his own film? WTF?

Erin Georgia said...

I was hoping this would deter me from finishing this film which I started about 2 months ago...
Sadly it's done the opposite and I really want to stick it out now... just to watch the train wreck...

I crave torture, apparently.

Damn.

Rum said...

Totally agree with you on this one, we never understand why Meghna does what she does, it might be for pissing her folks off, but she ran away to the fashion world, so i screamed "DEAL WITH IT, U SNOTRAG!"
Madhur's films always show the underbelly of some section of society, some of his films were backwaas like Jail, but some good in Page 3! But this was on the okay scale for me as I did appreciate all the actors for making do with the shitty script they were handed!

rossywar said...

I remember watching this film and laughing a lot but I don't think there were any jokes in it.

eliza bennet said...

This film was bad bad bad and entertaining for one time viewing.

I saw MB's Chandni Bar and thought it a good film (but it is very very depressing) and that is the
reason why I watched Fashion.

I think Priyanka's acting in this one is like a bad swimmer. You know the one who gives it all but ends up splashing lots of water and not go anywhere for all the effort. It was not nice to watch.

And in the warped logic of the film, I think the reason Meghna wanted to go back was because she couldn't admit defeat in such conditions (although in reality much of what happened to her was caused by her actions) and the fighting spirit which caused her to enter in the world of fashion (hahahahaaaaaaaa) returned with the support of her family.

And yeah, the clothes were fugly alright.

Beth said...

So many fun comments, but I will start with the easist one!

rhilex - Hitchcock, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Subhash Ghai, and Farah Khan, for starters. ;) The problem here is that his self-referencing is purely self-congratulatory without a trace of humor - and he's totally off-base about what he seems so proud of.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, fun as always to see a movie again through your eyes!
.
Yes the In Bed With Black Person trauma was a jaw-dropper. Especially when I reflect that some of us at least might feel more bad about getting overly cozy with a married guy, particularly when the couple is part of our own social world.
.
Possibly an instance of How Does It Look? going proxy for anything like actual personal morality.
.
VIRGINIA

Anarchivist said...

It is true, I am a Bad Movie Masochist. SpyGirl's comment about laughing at Priyanka's overblown angst, and your bad subtitle examples, make me kinda want to see this. Especially "I am the freaking face of Panache." I need to find ways to work that into conversation. In fact, I want it to be the catchphrase of the new Doctor Who!

Hopefully they'll allow me to blog from the funny farm...

Pitu said...

Grt review Beth! The weird thing is, I never thought the scene of PC waking up next to the black guy and her subsequent self-disgust had anything to do with him being black. I thought it was simply because she happened to have a one night stand with a guy. Period. I thought him being black was just coincidental. But maybe I am wrong. In which case, that SUCKS BIG TIME.

Also, the fact that I came away from the film saying 'Oh that Mugdha Godse was nice' makes me wonder how utterly horrible PC and KR were. They are established actresses who have done some good work in the past and they simply sucked in this movie. Esp KR. Why, why, why does she keep doing these EMO roles?

bollyviewer said...

"Why does she want to be a supermodel so badly? Why would someone sign up to do things that make them so uncomfortable with no payoff?" - umm... the payoff must be the big fat cheque at the end of the day (way bigger than in a "normal" profession) and the satisfaction of seeing one's face on every bill-board, wall, magazine, etc.! Thats usually the motivating factor in real life. I havent seen the film (and after your review, am not likely to!) but it might be what motivates these characters and was something that MB didnt think needed emphasising.

jensc00t said...

"I am the freaking face of Panache." . . . I want it to be the catchphrase of the new Doctor Who!"

That would be a whole lot better than "Geronimo!"

Bikram Singh Bathh said...

I somehow disagree to your views... A few ppl are really passionate for becoming something they have dreamt of,,, Fashion is a story about these people,,,, Ignore the flaws and just enjoy this basic reason of the film which I believe is Noble,,,,

Sujoy said...

I am planning on making a comic strip of this one highliting all the bloody awful cliches u have cited..

And I would like to include ur Madhur Bhandarkar screens for tht one :P

This is definitely going to be real fun ..*unstoppable giggles*

BTW, pls check out my comic strip of Tezaab:
http://www.oneknightstands.net/say-what-tezaab-munna-and-mohini-vs-lotiya

Cheerio!

Khiraki said...

great review! Having grown up with hindi films playing on the tv constantly, i never put much thought into them - just take them for a few good songs and some drama. Seeing the film through your eyes is really refreshing.

Saying that I agree with what Pitu said..I didn't think her being disgusted when she woke up the next morning had anything to do with the man being black but rather to do with her having a one night stand in the first place! But I might have missed something! Although this is highlighted in Bend it like Beckham and apparently this film, its certainly not the opinion of the majority of indian people. That would be like watching a couple of 'rascist' western movies and assuming all English people hate brown people???

idle-labour said...

Came across this, and couldn't stop myself to share this with you!

So, so worth a look!!

http://www.thevigilidiot.com/2009/04/18/unintentionally-funny-must-watch-bollywood-movies-fashion/

Beth said...

memsaab - Has she! I never notice stuff like that.

I am happy to have taken the bullet in service of so many dear friends! I sacrificed my brain on the altar of friendship! :)

Sharon - It's very LOL. I'm not sure of the black person is deliberate or just a horrendously foolish moment of lack of thought. I'd like to think it's the latter and not shockingly overt racism, but who knows. As I think a reader has pointed out, US films have surely done similar, though I'd like to hope they haven't done so in this millennium.

Jon - This makes me want to try Page 3 again, which I remember liking well enough. Now I'm doubtful! Agreed that KR was better than PC, though I honestly don't think that's saying very much. I'm so baffled that they won things for this.

FG - Fair enough!

I had not heard about that scandal! GROSS.

bollywooddeewana - I had thought this would be frothy, trashy fun but found none of that in it. But I'm glad you found something to love! :)

SpyGirl - Bad computer! It did seem like everything was just a little wrong, didn't it? And yes, there can definitely be a very big difference between liking something and it being good! And in that great void fall all of our guilty pleasures. Mine are Hulchul and Khushi, among others (see a theme?).

Ditto re: laughing at the soooooo shocking, sooooo surprising underwear assignment.

rhilex - Cross it off! Cross it off!

Erin - Did you do it? Did you finish? It's so not worth it - I did not find it good-bad at all. Just bad.

Rum - Yeah! She needed to be yelled at A LOT. Thank goodness we're here to do it!

rossywar - Exactly.

eliza - HAHA! Splish splash indeed!

I can see what you mean about her fighting spirit, but I'm not sure the film really showed us that...I think it mostly assumed we would fill that in since it was an underdog story. But I was also really worked up and angry at this, so I might have missed something in my rage.

Virignia - :) Good call on the relative ethics!

Anarchavist - Do not watch it. Instead put that time and energy into using our new favorite catchphrase!

Pitu - No? Hmmm. Interesting that a one night stand is worse than the affair with the married guy. Who knows. Let's hope it was just a coincidence that he was black, though I have to say, I kinda doubt it, since I think he was the only black person in the entire movie.

HIGH-LARIOUS re: Mugdha Godse being nice! A new bar for low!

bollyviewer - I don't think we saw much of that check! I can see not emphasizing, but at least SHOW it so we know it's there. I dunno. Her success looked like such a whimper.

jensc00t - Amen! Or even "Ruuuuuuun!"

Bikram - Fair enough :) I don't think this character put enough thought into what she did for me to call her determination noble. To me, she was just a fool.

Sujoy - YES PLEASE. DO IT!!!!

Khiraki - Thank you! :)

I certainly do not mean to imply that I think that a majority of Indians hate black people. I think this particular filmmaker might - or at least has a major, gaping hole in his brain where consideration of such issues ought to be! :)

idle-labour - I LOVE that site! I hadn't dug through the archives to find this gem and you made my afternoon. I think the pink cape is my favorite bit :)

grrlpretty said...

If you lived near me, then you could have seen this torture in the theatre with us on opening night!

And, you touched on EVERYTHING I hated about the film. I found it hard to believe the film was made by adults as it felt like a movie of the week written for the WB by a bunch of college interns.

I have to admit that until recently I thought Priyanka Chopra was the worst actress in Bollywood. I laughed and cringed throughout the film because she is NOT pretty enough to be a high-fashion model. Every time she shared the stage with another "model", they stole the scene from her.

And, as usual when it comes to bad films, your take on the film makes the torture of sitting through a bad film enjoyable after the fact!

Beth said...

Hey! Long time no see! :) I cannot IMAGINE watching this in the theater, though I have no doubt that watching it with you would be a hoot! It really does feel like something made by teenagers. Ooooh, smoking! Ooooh, sex with someone "not approved"! And aren't we all just stunned, STUNNED beyond belief that PC won awards for this. Shabana Azmi wins national awards, not Priyanka Chopra. How did so many people get fooled by this?

I also agree about PC's look (in the film) as a high fashion model. Totally wrong. The kids on America's Next Top Model look more high fashion than this character.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you so much !!!
I watched the film yesterday and I found it so awful on so many levels . I needed to know it's just me or others thought the same.

the part when she is an agonizing zombie if she can't modeling no matter how superficial is that ....but she got back the attitude hooray ! and so on

I feel better now :)

I like your blog , I use to read it ,it's a great fun and a sort of guide for me to the films of India .

Anonymous said...

oh and the subtitles ...
one of my favourites
when they say "shit " and the subtitles " oh no " :)