Five women with big dreams become Calendar Girls - but how does time treat them?
Small-town schemer Mayuri (Ruhi), rebellious Paroma (Satarupa), free-spirited Sharon (Kyra), naive Nandita (Akansha) and Pakistani Bollywood aspirant Nazneen (Avani) are 'calendar girls' for industrialist Kumar (Suhel), whose glamorous almanac, with itsy-bitsy bikinis and sprawling white sands, is 'India's symbol of success'. Shot by ace photographer Timmy (Rohit), the ladies wear lip-gloss, attitude and little else, dreaming of fame, love and success.
But turning life's calendar, what do they find?
Calendar Girls has a surreal, slightly dated quality. Characters resembling other characters - Neha Dhupia, Akshaye Khanna, Mamta Kulkarni, even a cop like Shatrughan Sinha - float in and out. The story resembles other Madhur Bhandarkar stories - a note from Page Three, a stroke of Fashion, far too much from Heroine. There's even Bhandarkar himself, but sans his once-sharp eye, mouthing, "Meri heroine se ek hi expression mil raha hai" - which describes Calendar Girls too. Despite this layered story of ambition, manipulation and desperation, where betting, bedding, broads and broadcasting meet, not much changes on the Calendar Girls' faces.
When Nandita's in-laws say cheating is their 'family parampara' or Timmy enquires, "When was the last time you really felt a man?", not an eyelash flickers, not a lip quivers. Only Keith Sequeira stands out as Paroma's boyfriend Pinaki and Ruhi as fiesty Mayuri makes passing impact. Over-acting as a high-class madam, giving Kathakali-style glares, Mita Vashisht tries tilting the feeble dramatic balance - and fails.
Dialogues don't help. Nazneen's boyfriend snarls she'll become a 'bleddy cheapo' while Mayuri is constantly praised, "Tum bahut aage jaogi" - which is not something you can say for this film that, despite all its curves, stays flat.
It's a pity because this story could have broken new ground. With glimpses of his original flair, Bhandarkar puts cricket enthusiasts, prostitutes, 'pahwa' brokers, philanderers, builders and bewildered middle-class mata-pitas together. He has his trademark touches of glamour, pathos and personalities but lacks power-packed acting to hold this together. Instead, between scintillating skin, syrupy sympathy and sheer sloppiness, the film loses grip, bite - and plot.
The pages of this Calendar slowly fall apart.