In Rensil D’Silva’s Ungli, perfectly normal adults prance around Mumbai wearing masks and playing bizarre tricks on the usual suspects who serially break the law or extract bribes from unsuspecting citizens—policemen, clerks at the pension office or a rude rickshawalla. They then send recorded tapes of these to television channels.

There is nothing adult about this vigilante drama, which runs like an artless adolescent fantasy. Its politics and activist centre unfold episodically, the ungli-flaunting vigilantes moving from target to target.

There is no humour, dramatic heft or pathos to these characters. The dialogue by Milap Zaveri is abysmally low on inspiration and imagination, among the cheesiest I have heard in a Hindi film in a very long time—when a cocky police officer known to have a way with the ladies says, “Aansoo sey sirf whisky dilute hoti hai (tears just dilute whisky)", you can assume the ladies he manages to impress are indeed numbskulls.

The Ungli gang’s leader is Abhay (Randeep Hooda), a hardened crime reporter at Aaj Tak who tries to woo his colleague Teesta (Neha Dhupia), a serious journalist in appearance and get-up, but a nincompoop in her work. In vintage Mr India style, the reporter slowly warms up to the mysterious superman do-gooder.

Goti (Neil Bhoopalam) is a computer engineer and Kalim (Angad Bedi), a mechanic. Maya (Kangana Ranaut) is a medical intern whose brother Ricky (Arunoday Singh), a gym trainer who trained the boys, is injured while trying to speak up against a street bully. He goes into coma, and to avenge the tragedy, Maya, Abhay, Goti and Kalim vow to change the plight of the common man by teaching exploiters and bullies some silly lessons.

The city’s police force is alarmed after they barge into a politician’s house at night and plaster his home with posters of a hand flashing the middle finger. This is supposed to be a lesson to political parties. Inspector Kale (Sanjay Dutt), an honest police officer, along with a new recruit, Nikhil (Emraan Hashmi), the son of his deceased friend, take up the task of busting the Ungli gang.

There is nothing remotely original about the script, barring a few decent scenes that involve male camaraderie and bonding. The production is efficient, with some good camerawork by Hemant Chaturvedi. Ranaut and Dhupia hardly have roles and the rest of the cast, including Bedi, Bhoopalam and Hooda, is decent. There are no surprises from Hashmi and Dutt.

The film has the distinct stamp of a brand of exaggerated, schmaltzy activism far from reality but in the garb of realism—the consummate example of this is Rang De Basanti, also D’Silva’s script.

Ungli released in theatres on Friday.

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