The fame game
Directors: Bijoy Nambiar, Karishma Kohli
Screenwriters: Nisha Mehta, Sri Rao
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Kapoor, Manav Kaul, Suhasini Mulay, Lakshvir Singh Saran, Muskkan Jaferi, Rajshri Despande, Gagan Arora
Streaming sites have become dumping grounds for movies and TV series. Often they are like the boring soap operas we watch on television. I don’t remember a good series after Gurgaon and The Family Man. The first was headlined by Pankaj Tripathi, and the second Manoj Bajpayee. Both are excellent actors, and both series have shone and thrilled me. But most others were dissatisfied.
Netflix’s latest attempt at a series, The Fame Game, appears to have been made with the sole purpose of giving long-forgotten actress Madhuri Dixit a chance to return to the limelight. Certainly, she is not a bad actress, and she still has the aura that we saw in her a long time ago. But in a series of eight episodes – each over 40 minutes long – not one person can do justice. Manav Kaul isn’t bad either, but the rest of the cast is terribly disappointing.
And the plot itself has very little new, and that’s what I gathered from watching the first six episodes given to critics in advance. In the very first, Anamika Khanna (Dixit) goes missing and her family consisting of her husband, Nikhil (Sanjay Kapoor), son Avi (Lakshvir Singh Saran) and daughter Amu (Muskkan Jaferi) have no idea what which could have happened. The mystery deepens when no ransom call comes, and the police along with the investigator, Shobha Tiwari (Rajshri Deshpande), are equally perplexed. To all this confusion is added the mother of Anamika, tried out brilliantly by Suhasini Mulay. (I still remember her in Bhuvan Shome, directed by Mrinal Sen in 1969, which marked a turning point in Indian cinema, announcing with a few other films, the New Wave of the country). She makes a nuisance of herself, and as we’ll learn later, helped push Anamika into a marriage she didn’t want.
When Amu gets a call from her mother in episode six, we already know the aging star is being held captive. We would know why in the climax.
But before we get to that, The Fame Game recounts in several flashbacks – which to me felt like an ad campaign for Dixit’s dancing abilities – how Anamika and Manav Kaul’s (Khanna) brief affair in London ago two decades had left them in agony. He is divorced with a daughter and she has an unhappy relationship with Nikhil. To make matters worse, her son is always in a grumpy mood, trying to fight off the demon inside him, and Amu suffers from an inferiority complex. She aspires to be a film actress, but feels she doesn’t look like her mother.
The problem with The Fame Game is that, like so many Indian movies and TV series, it tries to overflow its plate, losing focus and flow. At its very core, it’s a mystery drama with a missing star, but it gets so watered down that the thrill of it all is completely lost. And, the cop comes across as a caricature of what clumsy policemen used to be portrayed as in Indian cinema; Deshpande is a disaster.
But for the gorgeous sets and eye-catching costumes worn by Dixit, directors Bijoy Nambiar and Karishma Kohli couldn’t present anything remotely convincing. Also written without imagination by Sri Rao and Nisha Mehta, The Fame Game is hardly worth a look.
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