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“The Dirty Picture” starring Vidya Balan is one of the smash hits of the year. Little surprise there because as Neha Dhupia famously put it, "Only Sex and Shah Rukh Khan sells." And the film pays reverential homage to the twin Goddesses that aficionados of sex worship in every frame of the film. Now there is talk of a remake in Tamil and Telugu, and film buffs in the South especially those with a marked predilection for a woman's twin assets can hardly wait. But the question we should be asking is, do we really need this particular dirty picture? The original version while featuring a remarkable performance from its female lead was nothing but a clever and ultimately successful marketing ploy that had found a way to sell titillation in an almost tasteful package while masquerading as a biopic with a message,  all the while exploiting the name of the person who was supposed to be the inspiration for this film.

Milan Luthria's "The Dirty Picture" has a cop - out disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that all the characters are fictional. That false note sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The fictitious Silk played with feisty aplomb by Balan is a wannabe starlet whose rise to dizzying heights of stardom in Tamil cinema and fall are chronicled through the eyes of an enigmatic and bearded man (Southies even remotely associated with that era would know about Silk Smitha's lover, the man tabloids referred to only as Dhadikaran) whose hatred for her is surpassed only by his love. However, we know the film is set in Tamil Nadu only because a few random posters are in Tamil and snatches of Nakku Mukka are played throughout the flick, though what that particular track has to do with Tamil cinema in the 80s is anyone's guess. Everything else about “The Dirty Picture” including the filmi references are all true to Bollywood with nary a nod to Tamil cinema or its sensibilities.

The stereotypical portrayal of Tamilians makes you want to laugh out loud albeit in disgust. Naseerudin Shah's Suryakanth is an ageing hero complete with unsightly jowls and a bulging gut that are more reminiscent of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars rather than dapper and dashing Tamil stars from the 80s like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Karthik, Prabhu, Mohan, Suresh or Prathap Pothen. Silk like Suryakanth herself is something of a caricature and the makers like the journalist in the film seem unsure whether she is a vamp or a victim, an unlikely angel or a bitch  in disguise. Perhaps they figured and rightly so that putting Balan's assets front and center would distract from the complete lack of fully fleshed characters.

The climax is particularly disappointing, as Silk's fall from her lofty perch involves more gristle in the form of her indefatigable bosom that continues to heave heroically and less meat as to why she does the things she does. Silk is shown making stupid decisions in her personal and professional life, letting herself go to ginormous proportions, and all the while drinking and smoking herself into oblivion. One wonders why a woman who was a gritty fighter all her life should choose to go out so tamely that too after a horribly out of place dream sequence. Clearly, the powers behind the film did not wish to bust the bubble of soft porn into which they had lured their target audience. After all is there a bigger dampener on arousal than abject tragedy?

Getting back to the Tamil and Telugu remake that is supposedly in the making, why continue to dish out crap disguised as nourishing fare? Wouldn't it be better to make a proper biopic on that iconic figure in Southern cinema known as Silk Smitha. One that will stay true to the life of a woman who used her feminity to her advantage and smacked the male chauvinists who ruled the industry in the face with her overpowering sexuality. And one that will probe the reasons for her downfall without shying away from harsh reality. Now that would make for a great movie even if it is a dirty picture with more than its fair share of dirt.

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