The fame game begins with a question: “How does it feel to be Anamika Anand?” The response that comes is quick and cautious. “It’s good…I feel blessed…my fans love me…my family is with me.” The exteriority of movie stars is an open secret. What is disappointing, then, is the absence of a follow-up question from the reporter.
Anamika Anand is living a lie. Those around her – the press, the public – tend to take her literally. It’s a face played by a radiant Madhuri Dixit in her series debut. His character, like the star himself, is a model of acting grace and dignity. She is nice to the fans (when they stop her car in front of a studio, she comes out to dance with them). His family life is equally impeccable. She is an ideal mother, wife, daughter. His humility spreads in all directions. She is so perfect that when a real name is given – Vijju Joshi – it sounds amazing.
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Kapoor, Manav Kaul, Muskkaan Jaferi, Rajshri Deshpande, Lakshvir Saran
Creator: Sri Rao
One day, Anamika disappears, leaving behind a trail of clues. The police put pressure on his family. Her husband, Nikhil, is a producer. It makes sense to have Sanjay Kapoor, one of Madhuri’s oldest co-stars, in this awkward and blunt role. Their children – a troubled boy and an aspiring actress – are well cast, and Suhasini Mulay is intriguing as Anamika’s cold, micro-managing mother. But the suspicion also falls outside the domestic realm. Anamika was shooting a comeback. She had asked Manish Khanna – an ex-flame played by Manav Kaul – to perform with her. Their movie, in a comically antiquated way, is called Hasrat, the title enough to keep nervous distributors at bay.
The fame game is a Dharma offering – a joke in itself. The banner has represented the status quo for so long that it’s hard to take its revelations seriously. We have the usual truisms: husbands marry superstar wives for financial gain, producers funnel illegal money in and out of projects, magazines and portals publish intrusive gossip to get views. Terms such as “Filmfare Awards”, “on-screen chemistry” and “content-driven” are sprinkled throughout the dialogue (the show is written by Sri Rao, Shreya Bhattacharya, Akshat Ghildial, Nisha Mehta and Amita Vyas; Rao is the creator). Anamika’s downfall is blamed on changing trends, not an industry antithetical to maturing female stars.
A slightly better lead is that of her daughter, Amara (Muskkaan Jaferi). Early on, she complains that unlike her mother, she’s not “glamorous” – a word she’s probably clung to since childhood. The girl’s struggle with self-image creates an absorbing drama. Yet, as the show progresses, it turns into apologies for ambitious star children (with the Dharma Association, it seems more dishonest).
In eight episodes, the series exploits the Madhuri mythos: we see clips from his previous films, and there are awards and portraits on a wall. The actress herself remains coldly detached. The parallels are plentiful, but nothing suggests a personal account with the material (it’s silly, really, to even expect that). The fame game leaves us with this bitter lesson. Vijju, Anamika, Madhuri – they are equally unknowable.