Fashion is among the worst films I have ever seen, any language, any culture, any decade, whatever. It's dreadful. I do not understand what anyone involved with this script was thinking. Filmfare award for best actress aside - inexplicable and very, very far aside, in my opinion* - Priyanka Chopra is blank-eyed and blinkingly unconvincing as a character we are told over and over again will be a star because she has enough attitude to make up for her inexperience and horrendous choices. The idea that an almost unknown struggler in the industry would be given a role in a high-profile show by an agent who has never seen the model walk seems so stupid - let alone the idea that said model would have the gall to walk into an agency office to put herself forward for assignments without ever having walked in a show. Meghna voice-overs how she has dreamed of being a supermodel - not just the face of a department store brand or shampoo, mind - yet thinks scrunchies are appropriate
and is uncomfortable wearing lingerie for a photo shoot. Honey, what did you think you were going to have to do? Were you planning to be a caftan-only supermodel? It's fine not to want to show your goodies (which of course were still quite covered up in said lingerie shoot), but why are you so stupid about a job that you long for? And it's not as though seeing what supermodels have to wear is information that's difficult to come by - seeing what they wear is the whole effing point of the job! There's ignorance and naiveté, and then there's stupidity, and I think Meghna's mindset and decisions often fell under the latter. I assume the story was trying to show that the fashion industry preys on the weak and today chews up those it admired yesterday, but most of the damage I saw Meghna suffer was her own damn fault.
About halfway through the movie, I had to stop, unsure if I could bring myself to finish such an unrewarding task when there were so many better things I could be doing. I went in search of the professionals' views on what to me was quickly becoming a massive waste of time. Baradwaj Rangan points out that we never see Meghna experience any of the highs that motivate anyone to stick in this back-stabbing, people-eating world - and in turn, we viewers get zero sense of her motivation. Why does she want to be a supermodel so badly? Why would someone sign up to do things that make them so uncomfortable with no payoff? Who knows! There's not even a cheesy montage of trying on fabulous clothes and jet-setting around the world. This problem becomes even worse when Meghna returns to the industry after her tumble from popularity - so now we know that Meghna knows that the industry is horrible, so why does she want to go back? Based on what the movie shows us, there's nothing but deterrent in her life. Not to mention how difficult it is to empathize or sympathize with a person who is voluntarily re-enlisting for as damaging and draining yet totally self-centered lifestyle as...modeling. If she had burned out on being a doctor, a teacher - hell, even a designer - something creative, something that gives people joy, something that makes the world a better place - I might have admired her. Maybe it should be enough for me that the character states that this is her dream, but since I see no benefit from her dream to either her or humanity generally, I figure she's far less determined than she is unable to learn life lessons and make responsible decisions. Then again, the writers hardly spent any energy telling us about her thought processes and reactions during her fall and recovery, so it's hard to guess what, if anything, Meghna has absorbed from her first round, so maybe it's unfair to hope a character will act on resources we're not sure they have.
Raja Sen gave Fashion a prize "celebrating special achievement in awfulness," citing the director Madhur Bhandarkar's foolish self-congratulatory nods
and racism - oh the horror of a pretty pretty image-centered girl hitting on and sleeping with a black man! how loud and clear the wake-up call she needs to snap out of her decline and fall! this is even worse than cutting off your hair to chin-length! -
in addition to general failure to tell us anything novel or interesting about the Mumbai fashion world. To racism I'll add two stereotype-revelling depictions of gay male designers.
Yes, he is literally limp-wristed, lisping, and wearing a pink cravat. Two of the three major gay characters are denied any kind of love life, as far as we see on screen; on the other hand, a minor gay character who is some sort of player in the industry is shown as far more predatory than Arbaaz Khan's corporate head who has an affair with Meghna. And speaking of love lives, how 'bout that particular sort of puritanism that keeps in scenes of drug use but won't show us a stable, committed homosexual couple?
I have only four nice things to say about this movie. 1) It at least showed a taste of what the working conditions are like for the people who actually make the clothes. For a movie that seems to have wanted to have bite and to expose, especially in a major textile center like India, more of this would have been even better.
2) I agree with Filmi Girl's point that it is a refreshing change to see the woman in a relationship be the person who decides to put her career first, outpaces her male partner, and does not regret it. Unfortunately the script undid a lot of this independence- and career-positive work by having her sleep with a boss and crack under the pressure of success, as though it was saying "Look what happens when women aim for the top of their chosen line of work!" 3) One of the three major gay male characters was portrayed as a totally normal, non-affected person who tried to make the best of a bad situation. I wish the film had had another option for him than giving up his boyfriend to get married and closing off a portion of his life that was meaningful to him - with the dialogue "When you can't come out with the truth, it's time to live a lie." Ouch. 4) As readers of Bollywood Fugly know, I relish any chance for crazy movie costumes, and Fashion did not disappoint. I could have used more, but I can always use more.
There's a lot more to hate in Fashion - dubbing that sounds stagy, footsteps that are far too loud, facile characterizations, uninteresting people, unimpressive acting, and drug scenes that brought back memories of After School Specials from the 70s and 80s (ANGEL DUST!) (though not nearly as laughable as Sridevi's freakout in Janbaaz), blatant irony -
but for my sanity's sake, I will end with one problem that is dear to many subtitle-reading hearts: English subtitles that do not match English dialogue. One of my favorites folllowed a swimsuit runway show, when someone refers to La Perla as a luxury brand - good, good, totally normal term - but the subtitles say "lovely brand." Not a boost to the film's fashion industry cred. We see "fool" for "bastard," "beautiful" for "sexy," and "lousy woman" for "bitch." A famous lousy-woman-y designer demands a fashion show staffer arrange for him to get a front-row seat, screaming "You know who I am!!!", and the subtitles say "You know where!" What? And perhaps best of all, a photographer tells a model “Go get a dress change,” but the subtitles say "Go to the rest room." I almost hope the subtitle-makers (or automatic generator - it's hard to tell which is more likely to produce the above results) are the same people as the actual writers, because that would explain why we also get dud lines like these:
Clearly they blew their creative juices on transcription WTFery.
And I think degenerating into "WTFery" means this is as good a place as any to stop, don't you? There's nothing worth holding on to in this movie, nothing to engage you, nothing to remember. Unless Michael Kors, Tim Gunn, and Tyra Banks release their own MST3K version of Fashion, I never want to think about it again.
* And I know this is a movie and all, but as I read somewhere when the film came out, neither Priayanka nor Kangana Ranaut really look like the 2007-ish-era supermodels they're supposed to be - to be blunt, they have curves like most women do and do not look like heroin-addict nine-year-old boys that you most often see in major fashion publications in the last few years. Priyanka Chopra is a women-lover's version of beautiful, not the fashion industry's.