I remember watching Konkona Sen Sharma in Page 3 back in the day and aspiring to become a journalist of similar determination and courage. Director Madhur Bhandarkar was known to create many such heart-touching characters that were inspired by real-life struggles and stories.

Cut to today and the filmmaker’s stock has seen a sharp decline over the past half decade or so as he turns 48 on Saturday on the back of many forgettable releases. 

His last film of significant acclaim was the 2008 Priyanka Chopra-starrer Fashion. Critics waxed lyrical about the movie and it even thrust Kangana Ranaut into limelight for her acting prowess. The Queen actress’ portrayal of a want-away ramp model and PC’s similar life trajectory hit all the right chords with audiences too.

Apart from the Page 3 and Fashion characters, Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Chandni Bar, Ravina Tandon’s Satta and even the two following parts of the Page 3 trilogy — Corporate and Traffic Signal — turned out to be further feathers Bhandarkar’s bejewelled directorial hat.

A rare lapse of understanding or two would have been forgivable after a series of such memorable works but Bhandarkar’s cinema has been stooping to new lows with every release. 

As if Jail and Heroine weren’t torturous enough, his last film Indu Sarkar seemed as if he is repaying the current government’s favour of awarding him a Padma Shri last year. 

In his version of the times of emergency, he doesn’t manage to realise the true potential of the lead actress Kirti Kulhari, unlike most of his previously successful projects. She seems to be simply cast for the melancholic beauty of her face and sums up all that has been wrong with Bhandarkar in the recent past.

“I want to make a love story which is very real. It will definitely happen but it won’t have a metro city as its backdrop. Films like QSQT and Ek Duje Ke Liye inspire me so it will be in the space of semi realistic cinema,” he had said in a recent interview and if that’s what it takes to give us the Madhur Bhandarkar of the old, so be it.