Readers Write In #447: ON THE ‘UNFAIR GAME’

Posted on March 3, 2022

12


By An Jo

Spoilers: Yes

In ‘THE FAME GAME,’ there is a brilliant scene where a ‘younger’ actress comes to Anamika Anand Madhuri Dixit [MD,], a ‘yester-year’actressand tells her, what a fanshe and her mother are of hers. In a subtle scene, the youngeractress, without revealing her age, drops-in “You are an icon, I couldn’t be without you, and you know, and most importantly, without your blessings, I couldn’t have been where I am now”,  and then she goes on to force MD’s hand on her head to seek, of all things, ‘blessings’ carried on by the usual punctuations. In one superb move, Madhuri, still tolerating the blessings, with that 1000-watt smile knowing very well that she is facing – to put her down to raise her up, as per the paparazzi – just utters one sentence: “Oh, you don’t need blessings from me, these days, you don’t truly need talent, you know that very well, PR agents, et. all, should do the job.”

Now the reason I mention the above scene specifically is that this series is glittered through wonderful scenes like this. Hiding behind the ‘veil’ of a terrific on-screen persona, Madhuri is the foremost reason you watch the series. There are many cruel, grueling scenes like these that reveal the brilliance of MD as a performer-par-brilliance. The distinctions she draws between her ‘extraneous’ performance when she is ‘acting’ for the trade or publications or the celebrity parties or the paparazzi she is fierce, strong, and gives them back with equal punch—[There is a scene with Manav Kaul (they were lovers before), her co-star, and she realizes he is making her wait while she’s ready for the shot, she goes to his make-up room, and tells him with that killer smile, “We are both professionals. And we both know who the bigger star is]—and when alone or with her dysfunctional, she switches on superbly the internal, vulnerable performance –  but more on that later.

As I watched the credits, Kashmira Kohli, Bejoy Nambiar, Sai Rao, and the technical and writing and assistant crew, I realized they had something imperfect on hand; nonetheless, a damn intriguing one. There is a bit of unevenness, slowness that creeps in some episodes.

History, or hagiography [a favorite ofa hell-of-a-lot now-a-days of the ‘woke’]:

Frankly, when I saw the trailer, I was thinking, ‘Oh man, here’s another one they are gonna  under-utilize MD’s enormous talent.’ But I was pleasantly surprised when they recognized the diva and gave her the time and space she needed to ‘prove’ herself – not to her fans, but to the others. Coming up with the ‘challenge’ of facing the likes of Karishma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, the pleasant and talented Juhi Chawla a lot more, Manisha Koirala mainly, she didn’t have many challenges did she? But who among these was the one best performer that can give a run for money for talent and money to the others? Oh I forgot the great Divya Bharathi as well, who unfortunately killed herself, otherwise, she would have been the first choice for ‘Parinda’ and ‘Mrityudand’:[Look at the transformation of her expressions from this scene of ‘understanding’ to ‘not yielding’] – Yeah Right. And then, there’s that beauty Aishwarya – if we can’t pit talent against talent; graceful dancing against dancing; let’s try the ‘most beautiful woman on this earth’ route.

So all the above meta, and MD’s ‘aging’ is very smartly used in this series. I do not want to write much about the ‘plot’ or the ‘plot-holes’ of this series. But if there’re a few folks who have done justice to the enigma of MD after her being labeled as just a ‘danseuse;’there’s Santoshi in ‘Lajja,’ where MD taught a lesson or two about acting to Manisha Koirala, and then again in ‘Pukar,’Roshan in ‘Khel.’and then Bhansali in ‘Devdas,’ and finally, Bejoy and Kohli in ‘The Fame Game.’

The series evolves, and then, involves us with an actor who is supposed to be ‘living’ on the glories of past laurels. So she has an Aai, a Taiya, a daughter that wants to be as famous as her mother, a son grappling with addiction issues, and an ‘account’ for a husband, and more importantly, a mother, who’s done it all for the ‘family.’ Layer by layer, episode by episode, as folks peel an onion they reveal the ugliness going on in their lives, smartly hidden from the gossip and paparazzi. But somewhere, it has to break, isn’t it; the security blanket of secrets, wedded to a so-called ‘engineer.’ Mr. Sanjay Kapoor’s character should know; if he has studied, and passed, or understood something called ‘Factors of Safety’ and ‘Strength of Materials’ in Mechanical Engineering.. So one day, it breaks, and all hell breaks loose as each and every outsider and insider start questioning what’s wrong with ‘Anamika Anand’? And secondly, her family.

There’s a beautiful scene, where the lesbian inspector asks her assistant, seeing MD’s poster, in a ‘Silsila’ like poster – and the film is named ‘Hasrat’ – ‘Kya Dikhthahail isme Tujhe?’ And he replies. And I paraphrase: I don’t know Ma’am; you know, this Bombay city is full of shit-filled dreams; they actually call it a city of dreams, but actually hardly their dreams are full-filled – but at the end of the day, when they are traveling with their head, lain against the harbor or the Viral local or the ‘BEST’ there’s something that gives them the hope; OK, let metry tomorrow, something, that 1000 watt smile might help me. I know I will never be there, but I can, at least, stare at it and have my dinner peacefully tonight, dream of something and get the hell out to fight tomorrow.

At the end of the day, this is a direct slap on the folks who mentioned that Madhuri was nothing but a danseuse passing off asan actor. Carefully look at how she oscillates between being a tired celebrity, and a discomfited wife.Within a flicker of a second, she sendspendulumsraging and swinging between the two extremes: Put on a fake smile; go back to your home and handle the ‘multi-starrers’ in her home with sanity. This is an ode to Madhuri’s outstanding talent; and a put-down to all those who mocked her for being just a purple-dressed heroine. What is important here is, the directors that useeverything, her dupatta, her energetic dance moments, but when it comes to her domestic life, everything is sostand-still. That woman, who could make a million-male hearts flutter—and maybe a few female hearts as well—with that energy in ‘Ek Do Teen;’ or Akhiya Milayoon – just takes a stand-back. Now, look, who can make one’s eyeballs rotate and kick a goalpost, and change them, per their will.

Taking about other actors; look at the better version of Anil’s meta ‘Hairy-Rama Hairy-Krishna’ Sanjay Kapoor. He plays an abusive husband to the best. The way he breaks down when he says all he ever wanted was to love her, and that he is like an extra on the set when he is with her, just a husband clinging on to his wife’s glory; and how he dramatically shifts to shoving Madhuri’s face with the favorite blue shirt she gifted him – terrific. Who is bipolar here? Manav or Sanjay? And forget meeting the eyes; he couldn’t even rotate his eyeballs the way Madhuri did in ‘Raja;’ We all know who the Beti was; …can’t miss the meta here too.

I haven’t even seen the 7th episode, but I know where it’s hinting at: KUDOS to the team; and if there are more projects like these that rely on her acting prowess, theatrical release or the idiot box/OTT.