There is not a single platform, webpage or film critic which has not cantankerously panned Madhur Bhandarkar for regurgitating the same wine in new bottles through his recent string of films. So much so that there are memes out on the Internet which describe the set pattern of Madhur’s plots. To top that, he has been ridiculed for using banal names for his films and everything in them, something which is too obvious to state. For example, a film on the life of an actress will be called Heroine or one on the corporate politics in big companies has to be called Corporate. For a man who gave us Aan, Chandni Bar, Page 3 and to some extent even Fashion, he has come a long spiraling way where he has convoluted himself in his own ring of mediocrity. His latest, Calendar Girls did bear the brunt of his flailing popularity when he went out to cast the film or find producers for it. But then as for most veterans, and taking the liberty of calling him one, it needs one film where you push yourself beyond your comfort zone to get your mojo back, aint it?
Madhur’s Calendar Girls is a slightly appealing concoction of all his earlier films, where he goes back to many similar plot points and tested tropes to pull the same chords in his audience which had given him much success. He tells the story of 5 girls, from varied backgrounds from across the nation, who are selected to be the poster girls for, hold your breath, ‘The Calendar 2014.’ Post the release of the calendar, the girls must chart their own paths into the glamour industry which is a deep dark black hole, in Madhur’s interpretation, and it is your choices that make or break you in this world, as he voices this soapy moralistic lesson to us via one of the characters who did make the right choices. Not just that, a cricket league is called ‘Cricket League,’ all fashion designers are still gay, all fashion photographers are still over-enthusiastic, all news reporters still wear specs and are nice people, all politicians still call for escorts, and every other cliche you can think of. The icing of the cake is Madhur himself appearing in a cameo to massage his ego where one of the girls who is an aspiring actress keeps raving about him and his films. BUT this is not the bad part of the film. Infact, I liked Calendar Girls for its story and screenplay to be honest. It is much better than what Madhur has served us since Fashion and at a runtime of 131 minutes, I like how the cliches play out in an organic fashion without being overdone at any instant.
Infact, Calendar Girls is undone by bad acting and dialogues. None of the girls fail to make a mark save for Satarupa Pyne and Kyra Dutt to an extent and the supporting cast right from Suhel Seth to Suchitra Pillai is unapologeticaly hammy. Rohit Roy should be given an award for being the singlemost worst supporting actor of all time after this film. Abhiruchi Chand and Anil Pandey, the writers of the films must bear the brunt of this criticism for one of the worst dialogues in recent times. Most of the times you feel like cringing in your seat due to absolutely unnecessary information provided to you via their moronic dialogues. Bhandarkar does salvage some of it by staging scenes with an experienced hand but then his actors are naive while facing the camera and it shows and how. All in all, Calendar Girls has a bad first half, resurrects itself in the second half and just manages to not irk you off completely by the time it ends.
Produced on a modest budget by ManglMurti Films, Bhandarkar Entertainment and Raksha Entertainment, Calendar Girls has quite the look of a big film but while they put the best sets or go to the most exotic locales to shoot the songs, the OST itself is plain despicable. Music by Meet Bros Anjjaan and Amaal Malik is uninspired as is the cinematography by Harri Vendaantam. Editing by Devendra Murdeshwar is good and crisp.
On the whole, Bhandarkar took a while to make this film as he had to really struggle to cast it and sell it for a release. But if you go by me, he needs to be thrown out of the water for much longer for his next film if one wants the best out of him. It is not that he does not have it in him, the small sparks are visible in his work, but they are minimal and diminishing as of now. Only when he goes through an even tougher time making his next film, is when he will step out of his ego and and do something different. Till then, the Bhandarkar template films are very easy to review for anyone. You just have to change the names of the characters and the review remains the same, unfortunately. As for Calendar Girls, it may recover its cost but wont see any big success for him or the girls in my opinion. Watch it if you have missed the banality of Madhur Bhandarkar films. You might look for the exit door a couple of times but it wont be horrific like his last couple outings.
Rating – 2/5