'The Fame Game’ Review: Netflix series is full of nostalgia for cinephiles

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan 

The Fame Game, the much awaited series starring Madhuri Dixit in the role of a famous actress named Anamika Anand, is finally out on Netflix. The series is produced under the banner of Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment with Sri Rao serving as the showrunner. Bejoy Nambiar is one of the directors on The Fame Game. The series also stars Sanjay Kapoor, Manav Kaul, Suhasini Muley, Lakshvir Saran, Muskkaan Jaferi, and Rajshri Deshpande in pivotal roles.

The Netflix show unfolds as a thriller. We meet Bollywood icon Anamika Anand who is one of the most famous women in the world. But when this loving wife and mom suddenly vanishes without a trace, everything comes to a standstill. Where is Anamika? Has she been kidnapped or is she dead? Or has she herself consciously stepped away from the world of glamor? The investigation gives rise to several revelations as the perfectly crafted facade of her life is stripped away, uncovering hidden truths and painful lies she has tried to hide from the public eye all her life. The question “Where is Anamika?” quickly turns into “Who is Anamika?”

The Fame Game is full of nostalgia for cinema lovers whether one talks about Madhuri Dixit’s presence alone or her collaboration with Sanjay Kapoor, two and a half decades after their pairing in the films Raja (1995) and Mohabbat (1997). Here, one is also reminded of an interesting scène in the eight part series wherein Makarand Deshpande's poster painter character talks about the power of cinema. There is another scene wherein Anamika Anand’s daughter can be seen trying to enact a scene from the Madhuri Dixit movie Kalank (2019) while watching it on her laptop screen. It’s really as meta as a film or a series can be.

“Metacinema, also meta-cinema, is a mode of filmmaking in which the film informs the audience that they are watching a work of fiction,” as per Wikipedia. In other words, it often references to its own production, thereby working against the narrative conventions that aim to create an immersive experience for the viewer. Now, some makers go to great lengths to ensure that the viewer completely forgets that he/she is watching a film or a series. Take, for example, the case of Christopher Nolan who consciously changed the setting of a key scene in Batman Begins to an opera house instead of the cinema hall setting in the original text in order to ensure that the attention of the viewers is never drawn to the idea of watching a film in a cinema hall while watching the scene. Similarly, we also have filmmakers like Woody Allen who take the completely opposite route, going meta every time they see the creative possibility.

The series treads quite a refreshing space but does suffer from a few minor slipups. However, the bingeing experience proves to be quite rewarding overall. The episodes directed by Bejoy Nambiar are a tad bit more stylish and gripping and expectedly so. The acting performances are solid all round. Madhuri Dixit delivers a nigh flawless performance, effortlessly going through an entire gamut of emotions. She brings a certainly vulnerability to the character of Anamika Anand that makes it very believable and real.

Manav Kaul is equally brilliant. He lays his soul bare showing a wide range during his portrayal of an aging superstar named Manish Khanna who wants revive his relationship with his old flame—from looking plainly indifferent to a tantrum throwing moody star to a deeply passionate man in love to a lost soul to a caring father to a helpless man driven by fear and frustration who doesn’t think twice before publicly assaulting a journalist.

Sanjay Kapoor plays the challenging part of an insecure, incompetent, and jealous husband of a famous actress with great ease. Rajshri Deshpande looks compelling as a no-nonsense cop. Also, Suhasini Mulay plays the part of Anamika’s ambitious mother really well. The veteran actress never really disappoints even while playing parts that may come across to be clichéd. While Muskkaan Jaferi impresses in the role of Anamika Anand’s daughter, Gagan Arora’s creepy fan character proves to be the surprise element of the show.

A version of this review was first published at The Daily Guardian.

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