You love to hate and hate to love it. Miss Lovely belongs to us and our world. You get drawn into the world of C-grade and lower graded films and suddenly realise that these people and films are very much real and they exist because a huge crowd wants them, blow whistles at them, widen their eyes at ‘certain’ scenes and just loosen up in a different manner. It’s a world which belongs behind closed doors and drawn curtains. Ashim Ahluwalia almost gets it right… yes, almost.
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Actors: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anil George, Niharika Singh, Zeena Bhatia and Menaka Lalwani
You are immediately sucked into the sleaze fest of the 80s with Sonu Duggal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who is assisting his brother rather reluctantly. Big bro Vicky (Anil George) is a player of a director of C-grade, porn and shady films. He wants to grow. But Sonu is sensitive and has absolutely no love for these films. He is just bidding his time to either make a romantic film or do something of his own. In comes Pinky (Niharika Singh), a wannabe actress for whom Sonu plans to make a film called Miss Lovely and make her a star. He is in love, you see. Then begins a game of downfall, destruction and a sanitized view of a dirty world.
It is rare to see a film which is graphic and raw without offending your senses. The story of two brothers, the sleazy film industry and how it brings them down has the chance of keeping you wanting for more. And it does. That it is researched and has the touch of authenticity cannot be doubted, while watching Miss Lovely. Throughout, certain scenes make you both laugh, be revolted at its apparent seediness and feel pity all at the same time. A dwarf casting manager is approached by a middle-aged woman for work. When asked if she knows the kind of films made there, she quickly replies that she knows how to do a sexy dance. Next, you witness her cavorting and attempting to dance sexily. Once the laughter dies, you realise her dismay at having to do that for work. And there are those who willing come here. Young Nadia is brought to Vicky by her own mother but after a while, is seen loving the importance. Her death, when her position gets shaky, also brings the curtains over the Duggal Bros work. Credit certainly should be given to writers Ashim Ahluwalia and Uttam Sirur.
What makes it shaky is a rather shoddy second half. When the work gets threatened by a crackdown on the business, you just don’t realise what is happening and the reasons for it. What is Sonu’s illness? What makes the authorities release both the brothers? When you finally do understand some things, the film ends.
The now saleable Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s attempt at playing sensitive misfit Sonu charms you. You see his pain and love for Pinky, his moral struggle, or even his struggle to control of his world in his eyes and body-language. In one scene, Sonu has to chauffeur some call-girls back home in a taxi. The girls go on teasing and troubling him, and his irritation and discomfort is fabulously shown by Nawazuddin. But the film truly belongs to Anil George as Vicky. The character is sleazy, shameless, money-minded and knows the world inside out. George brings all that vulgarity in his acting. When he greets Pinky with Sonu at the restaurant, his chat and handshake with Pinky revolts you and that is his genius. Niharika Singh as Pinky does a commendable job of playing someone who seems naïve but is a revelation at the end. It must have been a tough job for the director to find actors who have played the roles – big and small – with amazing conviction and reality. Kudos to casting director Sharad Kalawar.
Director Ashim Ahluwalia has managed to create the shady world before us. He allows you to be a part of this world and not feel ashamed. It is a voyeurism but not disreputable one. Cinematographer K U Mohanan should share the credit for creating a visuals which stop short at being cheap. The third person to share this acclaim is art director Dhanya Pilo. Recreating the 80s India, an authentic C-grade film set, and our Indian lives especially the lower-middle class one is fabulous. It is a technical marvel.
Through Miss Lovely, you see another Bollywood belonging to filmmakers like Kanti Shah, Joginder Shelly, Harinam Singh, etc and films like Gunda, Khooni Dracula, Sheila Ki Jawani and so on. It draws you in rather fluidly. But a lack of sustained narration in the latter half makes your viewing experience sketchy.
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