Film Review | Miss Lovely2 min read . Updated: 17 Jan 2014, 03:30 PM IST
A definitive Bombay film, in an assured and original cinematic voice
The cultural cachet of Bombay on celluloid is weightier because of Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, an enchantingly lurid film set in the city’s pornographic film industry. This is South Bombay of the 1980s, with art deco ceilings, bright leather sofas, frosted glass, wooden staircases, long and cavernous neon-lit corridors, and tenements enveloped by thick green foliage. Even the Arabian Sea, with stray ferries possibly carrying passengers to Elephanta or Alibag, bobbing on it, have a sparse, neat, pre-globalization somnolence to it.
Ahluwalia, who has written the film with Uttam Sirur, has an an amoral lens on the futile daring of women in this industry, and its essentially morbid and exploitative nature. The film is also comically rich in parts. In fact, the director seems much more in love with objects and the setting than with the human beings. His gaze on the characters is unsentimental, even indifferent, except for the protagonist Sonu, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The tragic in Miss Lovely is visceral rather than verbal. The scuzzy and feral world that Ahluwalia creates contains many remnants of strangled utopias.
We meet brothers Vicky (Anil George) and Sonu, running a small pornographic enterprise, with the help of a few powerful people in the city. There are some familiar devices in the screenplay, like the jealous ageing porn star, seen in every movie about pornography and the women’s deliberately tacky, over-the-top way of dressing, although this is the 1980s, and some tackiness is necessary.
There are more unexpectedly interesting things in the film, like a dwarf running an agency to hire girls for the industry, where a middle-aged woman casually does an impromptu “sexy dance", or a shot of a marshy pool with fluttering water plants that has no logical connection to the story.
Sonu is an ingenue, a misfit in this world that he can’t escape. He falls in love with an aspiring star Pinky (Niharika Singh), who he dreams of casting in a clean romance. Among the cynical, hardened players who fuel this seedy world, it is Sonu who pays a price. In the climactic scene, suffused with extreme pathos, we see Sonu’s dream come true, as a new star sings Nazia Hassan’s Dum Dum De De in a chintzy, elaborate, gold-decked film set.
The film’s special gift is Siddiqui, who gives a terrifically subdued, yet powerhouse performance reminiscent of some of Om Puri’s performances from the early years of his career. The writers give him the only narrative voice-over. Siddiqui is captivating, without any false moves, remaining the film’s tragic heart.
Miss Lovely is a cinematic feast—its release is a great start to the year in Indian independent film-making.
Miss Lovely released in theatres on Friday