The glamourous world of fashion gets put under the spotlight with Madhur Bhandarakar's Fashion, a story which tells of the rise and fall of a fictional Indian supermodel Meghna Mathur, played by ex Miss World Priyanka Chopra, who holds court with her performance as the phoenix finding her own standing in an industry known for ruthlessness and fickleness that comes with changing its representative face with the seasons.
As Meghna, Chopra brings to life the wide-eyed small town girl who dreams of making it big on the catwalks of Mumbai, and thereafter the world, and we journey with her through this long and arduous road to modelling. Given that a typical Bollywood movie comes in two parts after an intermission, each part serves its intent well, acting as a separation of attitudes adopted, of the transformation of Meghna from aspiring model, to one at her peak, bad attitude notwithstanding.
You'd come to expect a story that's almost mirroring that of The Devil Wears Prada, where good natured girl gets caught up with all the bright lights and glamour, that she loses her humanity quite consciously, looking at herself change from angel to demon, yet powerless in the grip of fame and money to find the moral courage to do anything about it. It tells of pitfalls, not only in this particular industry, but in general the kind of negative person we are susceptible to turn into, should we lose touch with reality, and let success get into our heads.
Priyanka Chopra is quite perfect in the role and believable both as the girl next door, and a supermodel as well, given her beautiful looks and height to carry the role of a clothes horse. She brings to the screen some steely resolve in that it's not enough to be just a part of the industry, but to be #1 through any methods and means. During production of course there was talk about her going on a crash diet for her role, and I guess such rumours get spun because the industry favours pencil thin (read: unhealthy looking) models who grace the catwalks. However, Chopra brings about a healthy glow to her role as Meghna, though I thought toward the end she looked a little more svelte in her figure than to begin with.
It's good to see that at least she's not quite obsessed into being yet another waif looking character, as there might be some pressure given the production did feature real models, some even from Elite, gracing the screen as background eye candy. And this film was really quite encompassing with its portrayal of the industry, what with all the power players from agents to agencies, from designers (including fashion labels like Jimmy Choo) to magazines (Vogue India), from geniune friends to those looking to feel up skirts. I particularly liked how the film introduced us to all the key players and characters in one fell swoop, and what more through a fashion show, listening in to who's who and rivalries that exist, before observing just how hypocritical everyone can be toward one another.
Granted there were some lapses into character stereotypes like the gay designer and the married modelling agency boss (played by Arbaaz Khan) who has no qualms about sleeping with his top model, and with some moments in the plot being quite predictable, especially with relationships both personal and professional, Fashion still comes through unscathed as it's delivered in a slick package, sashaying to the cool seductive moves of catwalk modelling, of showing off its best side to the audience.
Since this is a film from Bollywood, you can expect many sleazy bits to be toned down and self-censored, with one scene involving a wardrobe malfunction actually being mosaic-ed off. And besides Priyanka Chopra, Mugdha Godse also held her own as Meghna's best friend Janet, who shows her the ropes and also bearing witness to her meteoric rise and fall. But I thought Kangna Ranaut's show-stopper role as top supermodel Shonali was something to sit up and take notice, with her pitch-perfect arrogance on the catwalk being quite a sight to behold, and her character being a parallel to that of Meghna, as a pre-cursor and warning of what one's life would be if you'd throw it to the wind, given her indulgence in drugs, drink, smoke and a choice of the wrong partner.
I haven't seen a lot of movies about the fashion industry, but I suppose this one form India serves as a catalyst to begin, even if it's a work of fiction. Eye candy galore and a simple storyline to follow, it's haute couture on display, everything good and nasty about it. As close to front row seats to a fashion show I can get.