It’s often said that ‘Films are nothing but a reel representation of the real life’. While a majority of filmmakers thrive on making ‘masala’ films, there are a handful of them who have carved a niche for themselves in making realistic yet commercial cinema. Madhur Bhandarkar is one such bright example for this. Be it CHANDNI BAR, PAGE 3, CORPORATE, TRAFFIC SIGNAL, FASHION or HEROINE, all of his films have been reflecting the bitter truth or like he says ‘the other side of the coin’. Madhur’s penchant for realistic films continues with his latest offering, CALENDAR GIRLS, yet another film that exposes the bitter side of the glamour industry. Will CALENDAR GIRLS make it to the calendar of successful films or will it fizzle at the box-office… lets analyze.

The film starts off with the introduction of Nandita Menon from Hyderabad (Akanksha Puri), Nazneen Malik from Lahore (Avani Modi), Sharon Pinto from Goa (Kyra Dutt), Mayuri Chauhan from Rohtak (Ruhi Singh) and Paromita Ghosh from Kolkata (Satarupa Pyne). Fighting all the odds, these five girls become the chosen ones for the flamboyant industrialist Kumar (Suhel Seth)’s ‘passion’ project of the annual ‘calendar girls’. These five girls are greeted with all the paparazzi and media attention on the night of the calendar launch. It is this big night which they all have been waiting for. The next morning brings all these five girls inroads to a new life full of opportunities. Paromita Ghosh accidentally meets up with her long lost (overambitious) boyfriend Pinaki (Keith Sequeira) in a social function in Mumbai. Unaware of his motives, she continues to love him unconditionally. So much so that, at his behest, she becomes the honey-trap to do match fixing with cricketers for the cash-rich cricket league matches. Things soon go downhill for her when the cops corner her. On the other hand, because of the anti-Pakistan movement in Mumbai, the Pakistani model Nazneen Malik is forced to return the signing amount that she had taken from a leading filmmaker for her debut film. Left with no option now, she lands up being a high-society escort, courtesy ‘broker’ Ananya (Mita Vasishth). Thirdly, the effervescent Sharon Pinto, who gets signed up by a leading talent management agency gets to hear some fictitious and unsavory stories about her from the agency owner Aniruddh Shroff (Rushad Rana). The self-respecting woman that is, Sharon slaps Aniruddh in his own office before all the employees… only to be slapped back with a ‘ban’ from advertising world. An accidental meeting with a leading journalist at a bookstore lands her a job as a TV show anchor. Meanwhile, Nandita Menon quits her glam job even before it takes off, only to get married to Harsh, the scion of the wealthy Narang family. Lastly, Mayuri Chauhan uses not just her networking skills, but also her social networking skills to become a successful Bollywood actress. In this process, while on one hand she doesn’t mind doing a film with wealthy producer’s son purely for the sake of money, on the other hand, she leaves no stone unturned when it comes to hobnobbing with the filmmakers who matter (in this film, its Madhur Bhandarkar in a cameo). Will Nazneen Malik ever be able to get out of her escort business, does the ‘model’ Sharon Pinto become a successful TV host, does Nandita Menon ever find true love from her husband Harsh, does Mayuri Chauhan and her impeccable PR skills make her a successful actress and does Paromita Ghosh manage to get out of the cricket scam and what ultimately happens to all the five ‘calendar girls’ is what forms the story of the film. 

With Madhur Bhandarkar at the helm of things, and with a theme like ‘Calendar Girls’, one is bound to expect a revelation of yet another side of the glamour industry. While Madhur Bhandarkar exposed the ugly side of fashion and Bollywood in his earlier films, FASHION and HEROINE respectively, he has treaded a similar path with CALENDAR GIRLS. And this time, he succeeds to a large extent. Besides being the director, Madhur Bhandarkar also doubles up as the writer of the film. The genesis of CALENDAR GIRLS has been undisputedly borrowed from his earlier films, wherein he showcases the yet another dark, but real side of the glamour industry. What really works for the film is that, instead of showcasing the ‘making’ of calendar girls, Madhur Bhandarkar has highlighted their life after the exposure to fame and success. The film’s narrative is simple, engaging and also hard hitting at the same time. There were many occasions wherein Madhur Bhandarkar could have just lost control and could have gone over the top with the film. But, he restrained the story very convincingly within the film’s premises. One has to laud him pulling off such a complex story with 5 stark newcomers. 

All the five actresses playing the calendar girls, namely Kyra, Avani, Ruhi, Akanksha and Satapura have performed their respective roles to the best of their abilities. They do not land up playing a caricature, which makes their roles very relatable. Even though the men did not have much to do, still, actors like Suhel Sheth, Rohit Roy, Atul Parchure and Keith Sequeira shine in their respective characters. 

The music (Meet Bros Anjaan, Amaal Mallik) is situational. Since the premise of the film did not have any requirement of music, one did not miss the want of a chartbuster song in the film. The cinematography by Hari Vendaantam is decent while the editing by Devendra Murdeshwar is commendable. 

The film has very correctly highlighted the high net worth families and their ‘pushing under the carpet’ problems, the platform that reality show offers to its contestants and also their ‘selection’ process, how relationships and condolences can be ‘money-pulated’. Without being preachy, Madhur Bhandarkar’s CALENDAR GIRLS showcases that life is all about the choices that one makes, which can either make or break a person. 

On the whole, CALENDAR GIRLS can be watched for its wholesome entertainment value, hard hitting drama and engaging narrative. Or like Madhur Bhandarkar himself would describe it in one word…. ‘Jalwa’!

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