- Karthik Narasimhan
I hardly ever watch Bollywood movies. My Hindi is limited at best and I have a strong dislike for the gloss-is-all-that-matters formula movies that Hindi filmmakers have been churning out over the last few years. But Page 3 came highly recommended – everyone had good things to say about it, and Konkona Sen Sharma was being hailed as the best Indian actress since Saif Ali Khan (ok, that was a cheap dig) so I decided to take the plunge.
The movie is mostly a series of parties at the homes of several rich people, attended by other rich people. They all hate each other, but don't mind attending parties together. Each party consists of a girl dancing on a poorly lit stage to the voice of one of the old women that sing all Hindi songs, men discussing business, a bumbling America-returned-Indian trying to get everyone's attention, women bitching about other women to groups of women not including the bitchee, and car-drivers dissing about their bosses.In order to ensure that you get the message, several groups of men are shown talking business, multiple women are shown indulging in bitching and so on. I am sure you get the message. There is also a lot of ogling – the director taking care to cover all the possible ogling permutations between people belonging to both sexes.
Observing all this with a mostly quizzical expression is Konkona – a middle class journalist with values, high ambition, a collection of cotton dresses and a season ticket to the Bombay metro – starting off her career covering parties for a newspaper. She stays with a couple of roommates, flight attendant Sandhya Mridul (who by the way, acted much better than Konkona in the movie) and Tara Sharma – a wannabe actress who looks like she's about to cry at any moment, even when she is laughing.
In between the parties, Konkona manages to acquire a boyfriend and several friends of different sexual orientations, while one of her roommates acquires a rich, old man for a boyfriend. Meanwhile, her other roommate manages to get herself pregnant, attempts suicide and hauls off to Delhi in a huff.
There is a badass reporter at Konkona's office, who is friends with an equally badass cop. The badass reporter has a one-man informant network that meets him at bars and passes on tips about the bad things that the people that attend parties do. The reporter relays the information to the badass cop. The cop inflicts various types of punishments on the culprits, including but not limited to pushing them out of cars, twisting their arms, breaking their jaws and talking to them in English. After inflicting such punishments, the badass cop looks at no one in particular and talks about Indian values. The badass cop's boss is a not-so-badass-cop who goes to parties and carries on conversations with everyone.
Did I mention the funeral? Someone dies, and all that anyone attending her funeral wants to do is dress well and either talk business or bitch depending on their sex. Again, to ensure that you get the point, any person or persons carrying on any conversation at the funeral is given some screen time. And, not surprisingly, all they do is talk business or bitch. Konkona is disillusioned.
Thus disillusioned, Konkona sees the badass reporter at work and decides that she wants to be a serious journalist herself. No more parties for me. Her skeptic editor lets her do it and Konkona and badass are now partners. After a riot and another party she catches her boyfriend indulging in questionable activities of a sexual nature with one of her male friends. More disillusionment.
Konkona then hooks up with her partner's informant and goes with badass cop to raid a powerful partygoer – a child molester, and the husband of the woman who died earlier. And so it goes.
To give credit to Bhandarkar, the movie is different from your run of the mill Bollywood fare. He has dared to explore the shadier side of India's elite, and discussed homosexuality pretty openly – a big no-no in Indian films. And, overall the acting was above average for an Indian movie. An honest attempt, for sure.
But an honest attempt does not make a good movie. Fifteen minutes into the movie, each character is well-defined. After that, the whole movie is just a reiteration of the definitions made in the first fifteen minutes. And there was a lot of stereotyping going on- honest middle class girl, promiscuous flight attendant, good cop, bad boss, arty director interested in bedding actresses. Plus, there were too many parties – it took me a long time to get rid of my hangover.