Starring:Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Kapoor, Manav Kaul, Rajshri Deshpande, Muskkaan Jaferi, Lakshvir Saran, Gagan Arora, Suhasini Mulay, Kashyap Shangari, Makarand Deshpande
Creator: Sri Rao
It is impossible not to pay attention when Madhuri Dixit comes on screen. Naturally therefore, the Netflix series ‘The Fame Game’ deserves special attention for Dixit’s digital debut, if for nothing else. The suspense drama was initially titled ‘Finding Anamika’, which later got renamed as ‘The Fame Game’.
The first season of the thriller series tells the story of a Bollywood superstar, Anamika Anand (Dixit), who suddenly disappears without a trace. Her disappearance prompts an investigation by police officer Sobha (Deshpande), which leads to the further unfolding of the plot. The narrative jumped back and forth, exposing the murkier details of Anamika’s life and others around her.
With her disappearance, her seemingly perfect life with husband and producer Nikhil More (Kapoor), two lovely children, Avinash and Amara (Saran & Jaferi) and an upcoming dream project with old flame Manish Khanna (Kaul) soon fall apart. The investigation proceeds, conspiracies loom, and mysteries deepen.
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Although the plot isn’t quite novel, and these stories of unhappy dark sides behind Bollywood glitz and glamour has become rather cliché, the storytelling of ‘The Fame Game’ is quite engaging and fast-paced. Questions of whether Anamika was murdered, kidnapped, or chose to leave on her own free will primarily keep the viewers hooked from the beginning.
It seemed there had been a conscious attempt to keep the entire star cast less glamourous to make Dixit stand out, which was totally unnecessary. In fact, kudos must be given to all the actors for holding their own in front of the queen of expression and everyone’s ‘Dil’ – Madhuri Dixit.
Talking about Dixit, it’s not surprising that this talented actor, who is in a league of her own, still maintains such a huge fan base defying all ageist stereotypes of Bollywood. She owns every scene of the show and makes it her own, makes every situation seems life-like probable with her superb acting skill and seamlessly floats between the myriad layers of her character.
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The generational trauma arc that we have also seen in ‘Gehraiyaan’ is present in ‘The Fame Game’, as a complex relationship between Anamika and her mother. It tells us that Indian shows have finally grown up and can think deeper beyond the “Saas-Bahu” dynamics.
However, this web series has also disappointed me for several reasons. First and foremost, using the LGBTQ angle, however much appreciated, is fast becoming another Bollywood formula. And this web series goes over the top with this. There are scenes involving violence and trans people that are so far removed from the main storyline that it feels bizarre! Playing too much on this formula runs the risk of backfiring the positive impact of this otherwise very timely and social cause.
Another reason that put me off right from the beginning is the extreme effort that has been put in the show in spelling out every little thing to the audience and not trusting us to have any intelligence whatsoever, to comprehend anything on our own.
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On the contrary, we have even noticed how the script of ‘The Fame Game’ has entirely forgotten to mention a murder after it has been committed. A very important character, a close ally of Anamika Anand, who later turns shady in a plot twist, gets killed. Nobody seemed bothered about his absence or finding the dead body in the rest of the season. Perhaps the second season will do some damage control to this forgotten storyline!
The cliff-hanger ending in the last episode and how the very docile and obedient Anamika, always tolerant to her abusive husband and dominating mother, finally turns complex towards the end gives a reason for the audience to come back for the next season.