Since ‘Page 3’ filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar has repeatedly made movies that spotlight a segment of society (Fashion, Heroine). But his lens is always voyeuristic, judgmental and shallow. ‘Calendar Girls’ is no different. It looks at the ups and downs of the lives of models who believe being part of the most prestigious annual calendar sponsored by a business magnate, Kumar (Suhel Seth), will guarantee them fame, fortune and success. But reality is a far cry from their dream.
Bhandarkar’s story follows five girls and their stories. Mayuri (Ruhi Singh) is a PR savvy, ambitious small town girl with big ambitions. Goa girl Sharon Pinto (Kyra Dutt) has her feet firmly on the ground. Paroma (Satarupa Pyne) rebels against her conservative Bengali upbringing and relocates to Mumbai promising she will surprise them one day. Pakistani girl Nazneen (Avani Modi) leaves her London life to chase a Bollywood dream in India. Nandita Menon (Akanksha Puri) chooses glamour over a career in commerce.
Once they become pin-ups who adorn the walls of udipis and chai stalls, the reality of their fame and infamy hits them. Each one’s life takes a different course – some good, some bad, some rocky. One enters Bollywood, another is forced to become a high end ‘escort, the third turns to media, the fourth marries rich and the fifth falls prey to emotional manipulation. Their identity, at least for 12 months, remains ‘Calendar girl Paroma’, ‘Calendar girl Nazeen, ‘Calendar girl Mayuri’… etc.
Of this gang of lesser-known ladies only Kyra Dutt makes some sort of impact, underplaying her character to create a connection with the audience. Paroma and Mayuri are caricatures and hard to take seriously as the gullible honey trap in a betting scandal and a Twitter obsessed wannabe Bollywood star respectively.
Making no bones about his megalomania, Bhandarkar plays himself – a director Mayuri desperately wants to work with, who goes on to cast her as the second lead in his film ‘Airhostess’. If this sounds ridiculous, it is. This nonsense defines this movie, which plays up stereotypes, is performed and produced like it’s a long episode of a TV serial and is clearly meant to titillate and shock.