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The Dirty Picture

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The Dirty Picture
A poster that features four people. From left, a man wearing a suit kneels down with a rose in his hand. A man wearing glasses looks away with a disgruntled expression. A provocatively dressed woman stands in a sensuous manner, with her lips slightly open. The third man holds the woman's thigh and smiles gleefully.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Milan Luthria
Produced by Ekta Kapoor
Shobha Kapoor
Written by Rajat Aroraa
Starring Vidya Balan
Naseeruddin Shah
Tusshar Kapoor
Emraan Hashmi
Narrated by Emraan Hashmi
Music by Songs:
Background Score:
Sandeep Shirodkar
Cinematography Bobby Singh
Edited by Akiv Ali
Distributed by ALT Entertainment
Balaji Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • 2 December 2011 (2011-12-02)
Running time
144 minutes[1]
Country India
Language Hindi
Budget 180 million (US$2.6 million)
Box office 1.17 billion (US$17 million)(worldwide)[2][3]

The Dirty Picture is a 2011 Indian biographical drama film inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, a South Indian actress noted for her erotic roles. The filmmakers have clarified that the story is not officially or literally based on Smitha alone, but on many of her Southern contemporaries such as Disco Shanti. It also resembles the personal lives of other women in popular culture, including Hollywood actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.[4] The film was directed by Milan Luthria and co-produced by Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor, after Ekta came up with the idea and asked screenwriter Rajat Aroraa to pen a story based on it.[5][6]

Produced on a budget of 180 million (US$2.6 million),[7] The Dirty Picture was released worldwide on 2 December 2011 (the anniversary of Smitha's birth),[8] in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions. Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Tusshar Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi played lead roles in the film.[9] Upon release the film was both a critical and commercial success, with Balan receiving the highest accolades for her performance; she was called "the hero of the film".[10] In addition, the film has received widespread praise for portraying women as powerful, contributing something unique to a typically male-dominated society.[11] The film's music was composed by Vishal Shekhar with lyrics written by Rajat Aroraa.

The Dirty Picture grossed 1.14 billion (US$17 million) worldwide[2][3] and received several awards, most of which were won by Balan for her portrayal of Silk. The film won three National Film Awards including Best Actress, three Filmfare Awards and six Screen Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Box Office India declared the film a Blockbuster after its fourth week.[12]


Reshma (Vidya Balan) is running away from her house to Chennai, a day before her marriage. She is insulted by the casting director for being unattractive and useless after trying to get a role in a film. Determined to convince him she spontaneously grabs the role of a side dancer. However, she dances with whips and using erotic movements which annoys the film's director, Abraham (Emraan Hashmi). He edits out Reshma's entire dance sequence from the film. The film fails at the box office much to the dismay of the producer Selva Ganesh (Rajesh Sharma), who later offers Reshma a song in his upcoming film, and suggests that she now be referred to as "Silk".

At the first shoot "Silk" dances with Suryakanth (Naseeruddin Shah ), her childhood idol. Silk seduces him by offering a long-term sexual relationship. Meanwhile, Abraham proposes a new film to Selva Ganesh and is keen to cast Suryakanth. However, Suryakanth's suggestion of adding spice and sex to make the film more commercially viable angers Abraham. Silk goes on to do many more erotic and sensual films with Suryakanth. She gains many male fans and within a short span of time, becomes immensely rich and popular as the Southern sex star.

Suryakanth's younger brother Ramakanth (Tusshar Kapoor) is an admirer of Silk and tries to befriend her. Silk is happy that someone finally likes her for who she is and not just for her body. At an awards ceremony Silk is praised for her performance, but is also insulted by Suryakanth who tells her that she is nothing but everyone's "dirty secret". Silk announces that she will continue to make her "dirty pictures", and that she has no qualms in doing so. She spends more time with Ramakanth and sensing their affair as a sensational news, noted journalist Naila (Anju Mahendru) criticises Silk for dating both brothers. Suryakanth drops Silk from his forthcoming films, forcing her to work with small-time film makers. She loses interest in her work and begins to feel threatened by a younger aspiring actress, Shakeela. After a dance challenge she intentionally trips Shakeela, much to the embarrassment of Ramakanth who breaks up with her.

After being cheated twice in love and being rejected by her own mother, Silk turns to alcohol and chain smoking, and gains weight. Directors lose interest in casting her. Silk approaches Silva Ganesh with an offer to produce a film together. Ultimately, the audiences have lost interest to which her film bombs and she subsequently loses all her wealth and fame. On the other hand, Abraham directs a film which ultimately turns out to be a huge success, which convinces him that he has finally proven to Silk that his films do not need any sexual essence to be successful. Silk has accumulated so much debt that she approaches a small-time film maker. She is shocked to find that he wants her to do a porn film, but he intoxicates her with a drink and starts filming. The place is soon raided by the police but Silk, manages to escape in time. Despite this Abraham begins to fall for Silk, even though he at first denies it. He manages to trace Silk's mother and wants to surprise Silk the next morning. That night when he calls Silk, she asks him to bid goodbye to everyone on her behalf as she is going to sleep. Abraham rushes to her house, finding her lying in bed dead from a sleeping pill overdose. In the end, Abraham's narration ends that it is unknown whether Silk was right or wrong. It's a mystery.


Balan with co-stars Tusshar Kapoor (left) and Emraan Hashmi at the audio release of The Dirty Picture.
  • Vidya Balan as Reshma/Silk, the protaginist, a rebellious woman turned actress. She runs away from home at a young age in order to nurture her dream of becoming an actress. She is uninhibited in expressing her sexuality and has scandalous affairs with several men.
  • Naseeruddin Shah as Suryakanth, an ageing South Indian superstar. He is involved in various extramarital relationships and has a secret affair with a much younger Silk.
  • Tusshar Kapoor as Ramakanth, Suryakant's brother and a writer for one of his forthcoming films. He is attracted to Silk, but unlike his brother is empathetic towards her.
  • Emraan Hashmi as Abraham, a film director and the narrator of the film. He dreams of making off-beat films and is Silk's biggest enemy. He is the main antagonist of the film.
  • Anju Mahendru as Naila, a journalist who writes scandalous articles about Silk, but secretively admires her courage.
  • Rajesh Sharma as Selva Ganesh/Keedadas, a producer of most of Silk's films.
  • Imran Hasnee as film director Vijayan
  • Mangal Kenkre as Ratnamma, a confidante of Silk.
  • Arya Banerjee as Shakeela, a newcomer who compares her skills to Silk.
  • Mohit Sinha as Manorma magazine's reporter at silk's bathtub
  • Shivani Tanksale as Raadhika



Ekta Kapoor launched the film with director Milan Luthria soon after their collaboration Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai became a hit.[13] She said that The Dirty Picture would be India's answer to the Academy Award nominated film Boogie Nights.[14] Later in a press conference, Kapoor clarified that neither of Balaji's forthcoming films, Ragini MMS nor The Dirty Picture, were "porn films" as they had been made out to be.[15]

Kapoor has gone on record to add, "I would be surprised if I don't get unbelievable critical acclaim for The Dirty Picture and a national award for my actress, Vidya Balan. The film has one of the most well-written scripts I have come across and a lot of youngsters in my office have looked at it with great admiration."[14] She also pointed out that the purpose of the film was neither to justify nor criticise Smitha's life, but for the audience to live her life.[14] Additionally, all actors, including Balan and Shah attended workshops for almost two months before filming could begin, in order to familiarise themselves with the body language of their characters.[16]

When screenwriter Rajat Aroraa initially started working, taking cues from producer Kapoor, the scope of the film was much smaller, primarily looking back to the soft-pornography scene of the 1980s. But gradually as work progressed, the scope widened to include the controversial romances of Smitha through a fictionalised biopic.[18] While researching for the film, director Luthria and screenwriter Aroraa found little material in film magazines of that period, as "women like Silk Smitha were often ignored by film magazines, except for gossip column mentions".[18] Thus they derived many of the details of her life from anecdotes and party gossips, and then fictionalised them. Apart from depicting the pomp of the Telugu/Tamil film industry, the screenplay also takes up issues such as money management by actors, "their string of broken relationships", and the way they "led lonely lives and met with tragic ends".[18] For inspiration, instead of looking at South Indian films of the period, the team turned to the work of mainstream Bollywood directors like Manmohan Desai, Vijay Anand, Raj Kapoor, Feroz Khan and G.P. Sippy; and in order to put the global soft-porn industry in context, the team looked into Boogie Nights (1997) and The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). The final script became a "fictionalised, women-oriented, generalised perspective on the 1980s film industry".[18]


After initial talks with actresses Kangana Ranaut[19] and Bipasha Basu[20] fell through, Vidya Balan was offered the lead role. When Balan was narrated the script and shown sketches of what she needed to wear for the portrayal, she felt uncomfortable.[21] Luthria added, "We couldn't have found anyone better than Vidya for this role. It's a casting that very few would think is viable because it is going to be nothing like Vidya has done before. But I am confident she will push the envelope as far as she can".[14]

Regarding the criticism that Balan's character might evoke, Luthria clarified, "I wanted Vidya to know that what she's doing is not crass or crude but can be shown aesthetically in a sensual manner with a touch of class. What her character does, is not cheap." As a reference point, he also asked Balan to study 'similar themed' films such as Burlesque and Chicago.[22] Balan also underwent salsa training to fine-tune herself with Smitha's languid body language.[23]

Next, Naseeruddin Shah was cast as an ageing South Indian superstar with "hideous wigs, dark glasses and painted-on mustaches". He also performed a "fast dance number" in the film, a full 22 years after he last did it in the song "Tirchi Topiwale" from Tridev (1989).[24] Regarding his character, Ekta Kapoor stated, "This role requires him to play to the gallery, provoke claps, laughs, and whistles and I know he can pull it off because Naseer is the Shah of all actors", while Luthria added, "Expect a man who unabashedly enjoys the flesh of women".[25]

Tusshar Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi were next cast in lead roles. While it was known that Tusshar Kapoor would play the role of a script-writer and Smitha's love interest, the nature of Hashmi's role was unknown for a while.[26] The casting received praise from trade pundits, with Taran Adarsh commenting, "Known for engaging in interesting and unconventional casting in all its previous releases, Balaji has again tackled the unheard of, by casting Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan – two of the most successful stars of today – opposite each other in The Dirty Picture. The perfect combination of mass and class promises to make this controversial film yet another winner from the Balaji stable."[27]


Filming was to begin on 21 May 2011; a week after the release of Kapoor's Ragini MMS. But due to certain production delays, it began a week later.[25] Balan, being a religious person, organised a puja on the sets before principal photography could begin.[16]

The first leg of filming took place at Mumbai's Film City where an elaborate set re-creating Chennai (then Madras) of the 80s, was set up.[28] The second schedule was shot in Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.[29] The song 'Ishq Sufiyana' was shot at Bidar fort in Bidar, Karnataka.[30] Filming was completed in September, before venturing into post-production, ahead of the December release.[31] Director Luthria wanted to depict a sense of discomfort between the film's two lead characters, Balan and Hashmi, a "meeting of two completely different worlds".[32] So he didn't allow them to interact and get comfortable with each other during film workshops ahead of the shoot. Since he considered them "the unlikeliest pair to come together", he brought them together right into the shoot filming an important scene, where they had to insult each other. Though he was initially anxious, it all turned out well and he was surprised by the resulting chemistry.[32]


Balan promoting The Dirty Picture in Kolkata.

The first look of The Dirty Picture and a short teaser were launched online on 26 August 2011.[33] The enthusiastic response even prompted its producers to consider a sequel.[34] The film's trailer on YouTube got over 500,000 hits in one day and a million hits in two days. Meanwhile, the theatrical trailer was launched on 30 August at a single screen cinema in Bandra. The space was especially decorated to recreate the retro era. Since the film is set in the 1980s, a time when multiplexes did not exist, the producers thought it would be fitting to show the première on a single screen.[35] The lead stars of the film created publicity by organising a promotional campaign in the college festival of Mithibai College on 30 November.[36]

As a part of the film promotion, actors Vidya Balan, Tusshar Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi made appearances on the popular TV show Bigg Boss (Season 5) aired on Colors on 26 November 2011. Balan also entered the house to spend some time with the housemates and present a red sari to Sunny Leone, as a present from her.[37] Later, on 27 November 2011, Balan and Hashmi made guest appearances on a special one-hour episode of Sony Entertainment Television India's popular daily soap Bade Achhe Lagte Hain. Balan shook leg to the song, "Ooh La La" with Saakshi Tanwar, the female lead actress of the soap.[38]


The Dirty Picture
Soundtrack album by Vishal-Shekhar
Released 19 October 2011
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 26:15
Label T-Series
Producer Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor
Vishal-Shekhar chronology
The Dirty Picture

T-Series acquired the music rights for The Dirty Picture. Vishal-Shekhar composed four tracks for the film and Rajat Arora penned the lyrics for them. The first of the four tracks, entitled "Ooh La La" composed by Bappi Lahiri was released on the internet on 19 October 2011.[39]


No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Ooh La La"   Bappi Lahiri, Shreya Ghoshal 4:18
2. "Ishq Sufiana" (Male) Kamal Khan 5:27
3. "Ishq Sufiana" (Female) Sunidhi Chauhan 5:29
4. "Honeymoon Ki Raat"   Sunidhi Chauhan 4:43
5. "Twinkle Twinkle"   Shreya Ghoshal, Rana Mazumdar 3:05
6. "Ooh La La" (Dhol Mix) Bappi Lahiri, Shreya Ghoshal 4:09
Total length:


Joginder Tuteja of Bollywood Hungama gave the music an overall rating of 4 out of five saying, "Music of The Dirty Picture takes the expected route and delivers what it promised" and chose Ooh La La and Ishq Sufiyana as picks from the album.[40] Sukanya Verma of gave the album a rating of 2 and a half out of 5, and said the opening track of The Dirty Picture is the album's only star.[41]

Release and reception[edit]

The film released worldwide on 2 December 2011,[42] coinciding with the 51st birth anniversary of South Indian film siren Silk Smitha. Nationally, the film released on 1766 screens and on 120 screens abroad.[43] The satellite rights of the film were sold to Sony Entertainment Television for 80 million (US$1.2 million) and another 20 million (US$290,000) from music rights deal with T-Series.[44] Raveena Tandon's husband, Anil Thadani acquired the distributor rights of the film for 191 million (US$2.8 million).[45]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, the film received mostly positive reviews from critics. The Times of India gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, concluding that "The Dirty Picture is definitely not only your film for the week, but is a seminal work that will be studied in feminist discourses."[46] Komal Nahta of gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and said, "The Dirty Picture is a wonderful film and will do extraordinary business."[47] Kaveree Bamzai of India Today gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, and extolled Balan's performance, calling it "riveting".[48] Dainik Bhaskar gave the film 3 and half stars out of 5, concluding, "Overall, a big thumbs up to The Dirty Picture, which is in its truest meaning, an entertainer. Highly recommended!"[49] Raja Sen from gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars and said "The Dirty Picture forsakes much potential nuance in its urge to please crowds but is still far more engaging than most Bollywood produce."[50] Sukanya Verma of gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, highlighting that "In terms of creativity, it's a middling effort. But where bravado is concerned, The Dirty Picture kicks ass by virtue of three very strong reasons: Vidya Balan. Vidya Balan. Vidya Balan."[51] Kunal Guha of Yahoo! India gave the movie 3 stars out of 5, and said, "Clearly, Rajat Aroraa's winning dialogues will make you sit up and say, "She [Balan] didn't just say that?!"[52][53]

Box office[edit]

The film opened strong, with 60–65% collections on average at multiplexes and had the 5th biggest opening of 2011.[54] The opening was best in and around the Maharashtra area, with 80% and 75% openings respectively.[55] The film was declared a Blockbuster by Box office India after its fourth week and ended with a lifetime gross of around 850 million (US$13 million).[56][57][not in citation given]


On the first day, the Hindi version grossed around 88.5 million (US$1.3 million) nett, while the Telugu version collected around 2 million (US$29,000).[58] [59] The film grossed 107.8 million (US$1.6 million) nett on Saturday and 123.8 million (US$1.8 million) nett on Sunday, taking the first weekend nett collection at 322.5 million (US$4.7 million) from all versions (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu).[60] The Dirty Picture sustained well on Monday by collecting 50 million (US$740,000) nett, with total collection netting at 342.5 million (US$5.0 million).[61] Due to a public holiday on Tuesday owing to Muharram celebrations, collection jumped to 57.5 million (US$850,000) nett, and hence taking the total 5 days collection to 400 million (US$5.9 million) nett.[62] By the end of the first week, the film netted a total of around 500 million (US$7.4 million), in the process became the biggest opening ever for a women-oriented film in the history of Indian Cinema.[63]

The Dirty Picture sustained well in the second week. The film grossed 25 million (US$370,000) nett on its second Friday while 40 million (US$590,000) nett on Saturday, with major collections coming from Maharashtra area.[64] It collected 115 million (US$1.7 million) nett on its second weekend.[65] 25 weeks after its release, The Dirty Picture continued to have a successful run in theaters; the film celebrated its silver jubilee at Relief Cinema in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.[66] The film grossed around 850 million (US$13 million) in India with its Hindi version grossing 797.6 million (US$12 million) domestic nett.[67] The Dirty Picture was highest grossing Bollywood film with an 'A' (Adults only) certificate in India,before the record was broken by Grand Masti in 2013.[68]


Internationally, the film released in the UAE, UK, Canada, United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hong Kong. Its nett opening altogether in these territories was approximately 35 million (US$520,000).[69] In UAE, on Thursday alone, the film grossed 4.3 million (US$63,000).[70]

Television broadcast[edit]

The Indian television premiere of The Dirty Picture was set to be telecast on Sony Entertainment Television on 22 April 2012 at 12 noon and 8 pm IST. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court allowed the TV channel to go ahead with the scheduled telecast after the Central Board of Film Certification had cleared the film with 56 cuts, 36 of which were done by the producers, while other cuts were suggested by the Certification Board. The film had to go through these cuts as the telecast of an adult-rated film during prime time in India is a violation of the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 and the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.[71][72] Following this process, Sony Entertainment Television promoted the scheduled telecast. However, on the scheduled day, the film was not telecast, with the channel putting up a message stating, "For unavoidable reasons we regret to inform that The Dirty Picture will not be telecast today. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted."[73] The Information and Broadcast Ministry informed the TV channel that it can air the film only after prime time, that's post 11 pm.[74]


The Dirty Picture received numerous awards and nominations from major award shows in India and abroad. The majority of these were won by Vidya Balan in the Best Actress category for her performance. The other achievements include those of costume design, dialogue, make-up, playback singing and choreography.


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External links[edit]