“The Fame Game” Is Cliched, But Madhuri’s Magic Somehow Makes It Work

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Madhuri is one of a kind, no one even comes close – I said out loud as I watched The Fame Game‘s first episode. A crime-thriller, this series makes you realise how much you have missed seeing Madhuri Dixit in good endurable projects. It also makes you a bit mad at the show’s producer Karan Johar for showcasing her in his unbearable period film Kalank, which neither did justice to her talent nor her enigmatic presence.

There is no doubt about it, Bejoy Nambiar’s The Fame Game is all about Madhuri Dixit. Who else could have played a successful female superstar, who is still relevant, despite being a mother of two grown-up kids and years of marriage on her back? We know how cruel the industry and film viewers have been to women actors for decades, and it is only with Dixit, Sridevi and those who came after them, that women actors could claim a decent paycheck and impressive roles in their 40s and 50s, instead of being reduced to playing mother or bhabhi of the very hero they romanced once.

The Fame Game review

Creator Sri Rao places Dixit in a world we have long associated with her but gives her character Anamika Anand enough problems and shades to keep us from seeing it as a documentary rather than a work of fiction. Anand is in an unhappy marriage, despite being the family’s sole breadwinner she runs around the house to fetch her husband’s favourite shirt, or to have a chat with her son’s friend. She is troubled, but focused, she can take betrayals with her chin up and she is authoritative enough to take back control of her finances when things seem to be getting out of her hands.

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However, as soon as The Fame Game moves away from being a character study on a powerful female superstar, and burdens its narrative with senseless twists and illogical “evidence” and “investigation” into the disappearance of its protagonist, it becomes a meandering and predictable mess. You can see the twists coming from so far, you might as well take a nap or scroll through Insta (which I did) while the creators get to the point.

It seems as if The Fame Game is not sure of what it wants to be. Is it a study of stardom? An investigative thriller? Or just a tale of a strong multitasker who works beyond her limits to keep things from falling apart. Gehraiyaan, also produced by Karan Johar, seems to have the same problem. It feels like two different scripts have been hastily patched, leaving the viewers confused, not stunned. Read our review of the film here.

Also, the premise of the show has nothing new to offer – it has the same old narrative about Bollywood and fame, presenting it as “dangerous”. Anamika has an authoritarian mother, her husband is a lost cause, whose only job is to spend his wife’s money. She has a troubled son with a secret that makes him angsty and a daughter who wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She is also betrayed by an employee whom she trusted. I know nothing about the workings of Bollywood from this series that I already didn’t from reading 90s gossip magazines that I used to flip through at my local beauty parlour two decades ago. Although there is a delicious scene where Dixit pulls a younger actor, commenting on how her fame has to do with everything other than talent.

Speaking of delicious, how good is Manav Kaul and why does he share such amazing chemistry with any leading lady that he is paired with? From Dixit in The Fame Game to Vidya Balan in Tumhari Sulu, Kaul looks better on-screen with our powerhouse women performers than most male superstars will ever do. Is it because he knows how to take a step back and let women shine in stories that are about them? Or because he aptly conveys the adulation that we feel for these women too?

One wishes that Dixit is given more such roles that she effortlessly shines in, but in projects that respect their viewers’ intelligence.

Views expressed are the author’s own.