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Madhavi is a newspaper journalist in Mumbai whose task is to fill the Page 3 column. Her job consists of attending parties among the socialite and small-time celebrity circle and reporting on it. Her roommates are Pearl, an air-hostess who wants to marry a rich man and settle down to a life of comfort; and Gayatri, a struggling actress. Gayatri is seduced by a leading married actor Rohit Kumar. When she finds out that she is pregnant, he advises her to abort the baby. Dejected, Gayatri tries to commit suicide but Madhavi and Pearl save her. She loses the baby and leaves Mumbai. Madhavi's job of interacting with shallow high-society people is depressing her. She wants to do some substantial reporting for a change, so she is assigned to the Crime beat alongwith veteran reporter Vinayak Mane. Written by
What you see is what you get. Not really! What Madhur Bhandarkar's brave and brilliant 'Page 3' does is destroy the myth attached to the glam and glitterati that colour the pages of our newspapers and whose lives(read party habits) we follow with such maniacal fervour which only our intrinsic voyeuristic streak can explain.
The page 3 phenomenon is as deplorable as it is enigmatic. How exactly did it gain such control over the printed word and when did it start to encroach into the front page is subject for another debate. Bhandarkar cleverly avoids that. He is concerned only with the mechanisms of this grotesque existence. And in doing that, he pieces together the various elements of this way of life. Like Robert Altman(although I'm not comparing Bhandarkar to Altman's genius), Bhandarkar uses myriad characters to further his motive. Whether it is a page 3 wannabe NRI, the gate-crashers, the newly-rich, an upcoming model, a socialite politician or an erotic novella authoress; all the characters are introduced with an objective and each of them has a separate character-sketch, even if their parts may be miniscule. And therein lays the film's appeal.
Konkona Sen Sharma plays Madhavi Sharma, a young and talented journalist who covers page 3 for Nation Today. Initially content with her job, she soon begins to see the ugliness of this underbelly that is covered by its fake and cosmetic profligacy. But Bhandarkar resists the temptation to make this subject into a moral-policing movie and avoids concentrating on one character alone. Hence the movie is not only about Madhavi, but also equally about Deepak Suri(Boman Irani)- Madhavi's editor who passively accepts his role as a cog of a larger machinery, Anjali Thapar(Soni Razdan)- a socialite suffocating from the social pollution, Abhijeet(Rehan Engineer)- a homosexual make-up artist and Madhavi's roommates Pearl(Sandhya Mridul)- the sassy airhostess and Gayatri(Tara Sharma)-an aspiring actress. It seems like an impossible task to assimilate so many characters(and more) in one story, but full credit to Nina Arora and Manoj Tyagi for penning a tight screenplay. The dialogues by Sanjeev Datta and Bhandarkar have been written with great attention to detail.
Any narrative, no matter how good, can fall flat with the lack of genuine performances. Thankfully, 'Page 3' brims with actors and not stars. Konkona goes through her author-backed role with effortless ease. Ditto Boman. Sandhya Mridul gets the best written part, but almost overdoes it. Atul Kulkarni is wasted though with an underwritten character. At times, the director seems too keen to incorporate as much as possible(paedophilia, homosexuality, etc.). But the contexts in which they are used do not make them look rushed.
Ultimately, Bhandarkar's attempt is to satiate our voyeurism, but he takes it a step further. He takes us inside the photographs and exposes us to the gruesome realities of this sect of humanity that strangely seems to be living in a different and remote world. These are the same people that indulged in new-year's revelry while a few hundred kilometers away their fellow countrymen had been ravaged by nature's ferocity! Clever writing, skillfully incorporated songs, able performances and a genuine feeling of sincerity are what make this film worthy in spite of its lack of finesse and poor production values. 'Page 3' is an optimum way to enter a new year of cinema.
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29th January, 2005
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