Prologue: On Silk and Sadma

If you have only heard of ‘Silk’ and never seen her on screen, which is quite possible, the idea of Vidya Balan as ‘Silk’ does not seem so impossible. But after really seeing the best of Vijayalakshmi alias Silk Smitha’s seductive moves in movie clips, it is difficult for me to be satisfied with the classy Vidya, with her sharp jawline, rather aquiline nose and sparkling clear eyes, fitted out to play the part of the earthy, dusky and fleshy, Dravidian beauty that Smitha was.

I had seen ‘Sadma’ when I was a kid, and hardly remember much beyond the hero and the heroine; not anything of a vamp. After seeing ‘The Dirty Picture’, I went through a score or so of Smitha’s so called titillating screen shots, and particularly re-viewed ‘Sadma’, which I learnt was unfortunately a big set-back to her plans to make it big in Bollywood. To me the nuances of the screen nymphomaniac, who does not simper, pout or wriggle in loud tones, but barely audibly whispers and makes languid, non-theatrical movements is definitely erotic without being crass. Silk had all the makings of the lasting screen siren, but probably Bollywood or the southern industry did not have directors and producers yet to cast her in the roles she suited.

The Lead

I am not discussing Silk Smitha here. I cannot qualify to evaluate an actress who raises so many myths and controversies, by viewing only some power-shots of her. I am to review ‘The Dirty Picture’, which has been labeled as a biopic on Silk. I hear that South Indians have not been turned off by the very North Indian look of Vidya, and took the film as a tribute to Silk. Definitely Vidya and Silk are like chalk and cheese, and though the promotions say that Vidya learnt Salsa to pace herself to the slow, drunken movements of Silk, she fails miserably. The way Silk lifts her drowsy eyes, curls up her lips and slithers up to the co-actor on screen is something Vidya has not been able to, or did not try to, recreate in ‘The Dirty Picture’. The Silk in ‘The Dirty Picture’ could be just any Bollywood vamp from the 80’s, not Silk Smitha from Chennai.

Silk in Dirty Picture is loud, raucous and smart. She is not Vijayalakshmi; Ekta has made sure of that by calling her Reshma. The problem with biopics is that there is no limitation as to how far the director-scriptwriter will break and make the original character to suit his ends. Ekta makes no scruple of using the myth of Silk Smitha and churn out a box office hit. Silk was illiterate, poor and fighting. The film has retained the ‘fighting’ part and combined it with out-of-character suaveness.Vidya Balan is totally out of character in her very urban and contemporary tone and diction. That is as far as the discussion on the ‘genre’ is concerned. I do not accept it to hold any value as a biopic.

The Plot

That being said little remains to be discussed about ‘The Dirty Picture’. Reshma is a female extra artist, who is intent on making a career in films. She notes, after some time that to get screen space she would need to say ‘bye’ to some niceties of society, and she assumes the screen name of ‘Silk’. In doing so, she willingly or unwillingly starts falling prey to the Snake and Ladders game she opts for. Men, who use her at night, shun her in day-time. Under pressure, Silk gets harsh and scrupulous. There is also a love-hate relationship brewing in the background with a young director who is not ready to compromise on his ethics and use sex to sell his movies. There is a woman journalist who slanders Silk to please her readers but secretly admires her unconventional, ambitious ways. But the movie-buffs are mad for her.

The Characters

Naseeruddin Shah is Suryakant, the middle aged, screen hero to give Silk’s career a boost. Nasiruddin is just as he is expected to be – the false and flamboyant matinee idol of the 80’s. There is no scope to churn any deeper or intricate piece of acting for the film, so Naseer plays his role. But no new feather is added to his cap. There is nothing to be said about Tusshar Kapoor, the writer-lover boy, except what the magazines are saying; this is the first time he has been kissed by a ravishing beauty, on screen. The only one who interested me was Hashmi. I liked him chartering somewhat new waters this time, and he was convincing. He and his directors can start considering him for some really mature roles now. I cannot say Vidya was not good. She was doing something completely out of her genre and doing it very well. But in the end there was not much zing to the character.

It really surprises me now, after having watched this movie, that there was at all any uproar over the film! ‘Ishqiya’ had already seen such an evolved dose of acting from Vidya and this was really falling far below her own standards. If ‘Dirty Pictures’ fails as a biopic of ‘Silk’, it definitely does not fail in recreating another of those second rate movies Silk may have acted in, in the 80’s. And that makes this movie a No.1 crowd puller.


I agree the script was as good as it could get to make a chart buster out of nothing but sensationalism. I liked the song ‘Ishq Sufiana’, both the singer, music and the choreography was soothing after a lot of stress to the senses.

The movie overall gets a score of 5 out of 10 from me. It was a diversion from the really serious and somber or gory or the silly and romantic bollywood movies of recent past and if anybody thinks it talked about the underdog and the exploited of the silver screens, I cannot but guffaw on his face.

In the end, my summation of ‘Dirty Picture’ is this: watch out for Ekta Kapoor in this film, she is that ‘powerful woman’ of this film, who knows just too well the spicy bollywood formula of building something out of nothing!

About the Author

Sushmita lives in Kolkata, and is passionate about life. She feeds on Music and Rhythm and survives on colour and love. And she also loves writing.