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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Miss Lovely: A world of unmitigated debauchery

Reading Time: 3 minutesmiss_lovely

Film: Miss Lovely

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Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Niharika Singh and Anil George

Director: Ashim Ahluwalia

Rating: ****

To aesthetically capture the scummy on screen in all its naked glory is not an easy task. Debutant director Ashim Ahluwalia has achieved a stirring and disturbing synthesis of a documentary-styled narrative on the not-defunct world of horror-porn from the 1980s, and a conventional Hindi film love triangle (two brothers, one girl, tension, tension!)

The storytelling is not just unique, it is also extremely disturbing. The characters do not follow the redemptive path from sleaze to atonement. They remain till the end damned, doomed and despicable in their greed to capture female flesh in lascivious close-ups.

The lure of the leer is laid out with brutal directness. The tale is a trap for the compromised. But it’s not a morality tale.

The camera space between the characters and the audience is next to non-existent in Ahluwalia’s narrative. And that’s the highest compliment one can pay the cinematographer K.U. Mohanan and co-editors Paresh Kamdar and Ahluwalia who have done their jobs so well they seem non-existent in the scheme of Ahluwalia’s scathing sting operation on human depravity and uncontrollable sexual appetites.

There is an unevenness about the narration which perfectly matches the smoky seedy mood of the story. Barring Niharika Singh’s character who epitomises beauty in the sleazy cesspool, all the actors are captured in grotesque flabby close-ups. Niharika looks aloof and detached from the sleaze. She seems to be playing the title role. But then, deception is the name of the grime.

There is nothing pretty or lovely about Miss Lovely. Scene after scene of cheesy titillation is piled on with little space for narrative niceties. Clearly Ahluwalia knows this dark desperate ugly world. He enters it fearlessly and shamelessly. Emotionally and visually the narrative remains married to the murky until the bitter shocking end.

The finale leaves us as sick in the pit of our stomach as the rest of the film. These are characters who belong to the armpit of humanity.

The four principal parts are played with disconcerting scrupulousness by Niharika Singh, Anil George, Zeena Bhatia and last but not the ‘leashed’ Nawazuddin Siddiqui who continues to create compelling characters culled from dark desperate corners of the human condition.

Nawazuddin’s Sonu Duggal is a curiously untarnished soul trapped in a world of unmitigated debauchery. His romance with the wannabe starlet Pinky (Niharika Singh) comes to an expectantly sticky tragic end. The bitter rage with which Nawazuddin confronts the betrayal of his innocent love for the girl is more Shakespearean than you’d expect a film of this nature to be.

Loath it or love it, you’ve never seen anything like Miss Lovely. It builds a world of vicious vices with its raw stock of stark visuals and elemental emotions. The sound design is deliberately hazy, going as it does from Asha Bhosle-R.D. Burman in the opening credits to incidental distant sounds of girls giggling in fake ecstasy and moaning in ersatz pleasure.

The dark, sinister, sexy, dangerous and devastatingly lurid, the sleazy world of Bollywood’s semi-porn scare-fests is recreated in a scarily new cinematic language.

The view in Miss Lovely may not be pretty but it is unfailingly provocative and exhilarating. This film is not for the squeamish.

Neither is life.

Subhash K. Jha 

 

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