Director: KD Satyam
Cast: Raima Sen, Ashish Vidyarthi, Salim Dewan
Bollywood is the number one inspiration for popular culture in India. It’s marginally rivalled in impact by cricket, but the effect Hindi films and the industry has on the people of our nation is phenomenal. Hundreds and thousands still flock to Mumbai to make a career in the movie industry. A handful make it. But that doesn’t account for the millions who never even make it to the shores of b-town. Bollywood Diaries is the story of three such individuals. It speaks of a story done hundreds of times before. It has some fascinating ideas trying to feed the dramatic force. Sadly, the execution fails to rise above stereotypes. In the end Bollywood Diaries turns out to be another well-intentioned but grossly inadequate film.
The story deals with three people, each with dreams about making it big in films. Vishnu (Ashish Vidyarthi) is a middle-aged government employee who’s waited a little too long to pursue is his acting ambitions. Then there’s Rohit (Salim Diwan) who is a regular Delhi lad working at a call center. He’s besotted with the idea of becoming the next superstar. The third is Imli (Raima Sen) who’s a prostitute in Kolkata desperate to get to Mumbai, so she can become an actress. Imli’s story and writer/director KD Satyam’s design of her tale is clichéd. While it’s been portrayed with the right amount of sensitivity, it’s based on ideas like a filmmaker making empty promises and duping the girl of her dignity and respect. Ideas that were old in the ’90s. Rohit’s story is engaging. He’s exploited as well but he’s made the victim of reality TV trends. Not just that, his story also reflects peer pressure and societal dichotomy faced by strugglers. This story has it’s moments, but it needed a lead actor with more caliber. The third story with Vishnu trying to break free from his domesticity is the most powerful one. It has some surreal and deeply relevant themes. It really catches your attention.
Execution is the biggest downfall of Bollywood Diaries. The director has tried to fit in too much in too little space. Three stories as it is are a handful to follow. And then, the treatment of the film tries to sneak in too many filmmaking techniques. They’ve tried thriller, comedy, satire, parody, slice-of-life all at once. They’ve even thrown in unique cinematography. That’s the main reason the film feels so inconsistent. It’s all a bit too hotch potch.
Like Salim Diwan’s acting efforts at playing a simpleton with big dreams. You get that he’s trying to be a bad actor, because that’s the character, but the tempo doesn’t wear off in scenes where his character is not acting. There could’ve been a little more introspection and emotional depth to his character. But the energy stays overstated when it should have been dialled down a notch. No such complaints from Raima Sen and Ashish Vidyarthi though. They get the tone and nuances of their respective characters bang on. One of the best scenes in film involves Vidyarthi’s character’s bizarre request to his spiritual guru. It’s a moment of magical madness. If only, Satyam’s had focused just on Vishnu’s story. He’d have had a brilliant concept to boot.
Bollywood Diaries is not a bad film, definitely not on paper. It has the right Ideas, it even tries to bring a little bit of innovation to the storytelling. But even so, it seems to try too hard. And in the process of trying to be too dramatic it makes a meal of its themes. It could’ve been a lot better. But it’s not. It just about manages to be acceptable, mostly thanks to its intentions.