In The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma reviews The Dirty Picture:
The Dirty Picture is Adults Only, so is this review. Having sorted that out, let’s go. Ms Vidya Balan, and I say this with respect and not a hint of misogyny, has balls of steel. Not any ordinary steel balls. No. Hers are lipstick-red, clanging, solid, shiny balls, hard to dent and impossible to ignore.
It takes guts to take on a role inspired by the sleazy and tragic life of an extra whose magazine cut-outs and images were mostly conjured up in the privacy of bathrooms to assist ejaculation. Few actresses in Bollywood would have said yes to portraying Silk Smitha, the two-bit “item bomb” from south, and turned it into a career-defining concerto. And fewer still would have delivered it with the dazzling chutzpah and high jinx that the retelling of Smitha’s life demanded, and added their own generous sprinkling of sauce, salt and red pepper. Ms Balan lets it all hang out, metaphorically and literally, and deserves a loud and ecstatic standing ovation.
Barring the last 20-25 minutes, The Dirty Picture is an inspired piece of work. For producer Ekta Kapoor to zero in on Smitha (I am completely ignoring her oscillating stand on it is-it isn’t about Smitha) was obviously a commercial decision more than a feminist schema — you’ll be hard pressed to find a script on which the cliché “exposing is necessary because the script demands it” sits more happily. But to put together a team that not only tells the story with skill and cheekiness, but also comes together to create the naughty Eighties, is an act of mad genius. More:
Ekta Kapoor’s forthcoming film ‘The Dirty Picture’ revisits a sequins-and-pelvic-thrust era of Tamil cinema which was propelled by talent, scheming, hypocrisy and the intense loneliness of women like Silk Smitha. Gayatri Jayaraman in Mint-Lounge:
Silk Smitha, sometimes called Silk Sumitha, was born Vijayalakshmi in the town of Eluru in Andhra Pradesh in 1960. Guy met Silk Smitha on film sets in the course of his writings, and developed a warm rapport with the otherwise reserved actor because they shared a mother tongue, Telugu. “‘Yemmendi, yemmendi’, she would say when she saw me,” he recalls (yemmendi is a Telugu term of respect commonly used to hail a senior). “She was a voluptuous, extremely good-looking woman. This led her to being ‘exploited’ by men (for) most of her youth. To solve this, her family married her off at a very young age. But this just made it worse. Ill-treated in her marriage, Vijayalakshmi ran away to Chennai and lived with an aunt while she tried to make a new start.”
In Chennai, she began as a touch-up artiste for a B-grade actor, but her beauty quickly got her the kind of character roles that would allow her acting talent (of which she had plenty) to shine. She made her debut with a character role in the Malayalam film Inaye Thedi (1979). But her extreme sexiness intervened, demanding cabaret dances and vamp roles that became monetarily lucrative for the film industry.
In the late 1980s, Guy wrote a TV crime series, Senior Junior, which aired a single episode starring Silk Smitha in a role where she is mysteriously found dead in a bathtub. Guy knew her well from the height of her fame to this time of descent, and describes her as a warm, fantastic person, a talented actor, shrewdly aware of the lengths her sex appeal could take her, very reserved, and so sexy that it overwhelmed everything else about her. More