Just because a film has been lauded and applauded at the Cannes (the Un Certain Regard in 2012, for this one), and as a result got itself a five star rating doesn’t necessarily translate to having a phenomenal cinematic appeal. Blame it on the colonial hangover or that irresistible wild, wild west itch - we are suckers for a phoren stamp of approval, and make a beeline dash after anything that has the gora thumbs up. Ashim Ahluwalia’s “Miss Lovely” is a case in point. Being hailed as an “A” class film on the C-grade film industry, “Miss Lovely” was the flick to catch this past Friday. The lesser mortals including “Karle Pyaar Karle” and “Paranthe Wali Gali” were waved off, lost in the din of this “critically acclaimed” film, the bold product of a new age cinema, one that’s supposed to be cutting edge, real and hard-hitting. It hit me alright as its cameras travel into the seedy underbelly of the Mumbai porn industry of the 1980s where we are treated to the sheer ugliness of it all. Pimp cum producers, shady directors, dingy rooms, creepy sets all spiked with a heady cocktail of sex, alcohol and sleaze – there is a misguided love story lingering somewhere in between, not missing out on betrayal and deceit. It is violently ugly, a real dirty picture that halfway through I honestly got a tad bit disgusted with it. Frustrated too – the sex scenes were blurred (thanks to the censorship courtesy Central Board Of Film Certification). So consumed is the director with the entire imagery of it that he lingers on frames and scenes for far too long rendering the experience rather exhausting. You kinda lose the plot because it moves at such a snail pace.
“Miss Lovely” is no rocket science – it’s a straight story of two brothers – Vicky Duggal (Anil George) and Sonu Duggal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who run a desi porn film empire. Vicky’s untamed ambition to reach the top and mingle with the high and mighty of the industry gets him involved with the baddies who fund his films and indulge in its perversions. A reluctant Sonu follows, dreaming of making a better film, a love story with this mystery woman, Pinki (Niharika Singh), whom he falls desperately in love with. This obsession with her gets him into trouble when he steals from his brother to fund his film, and as a result, Vicky lands in a soup with his producers. The death of a porn queen escalates the tension and a witch hunt for these “sex ke vyapari” is unleashed.
The 1980s with its OTT glitzy costumes, night clubs, sex films camouflaged in the garb of cheap horror flicks – the light in Ahluwalia’s cinema goes dark, very dark and disturbing to the point of being claustrophobic. But except for Siddiqui’s natural brilliance as a performer, nothing stays with us. I agree with film critic Anupama Chopra where she says one has to struggle with the film, and such films are an acquired taste.
That said, we are all voyeurs, peeping toms itching to catch that one flash - no wonder the hall was full of men, so much that it made me, as a woman, uneasy. I wish Ahluwalia had lent more pace, more text and narrative to ease out the story, like you are treated to in “Bazaar” or “Chandni Bar.” They still give me goosebumps. “Miss Lovely,” unfortunately, took my time and money and gave me nothing in return, which leaves me with one question – am I/are we ready for such harsh reality and ugly truth?