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Ahluwalia makes 'Lovely' impact

 

SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Cannes, May 24, 2012 20:07
Tags : 65th cannes film festival | ashim ahluwalia | miss lovely | Salle Debussy |
 

Ashim Ahluwalia’s debut feature, Miss Lovely, India’s solitary film in the official selection in Cannes this year, received a warm reception at its premier at the Salle Debussy here on Thursday morning. 

A strikingly original take on the world of the sleazy C-grade exploitation flicks that were made in Mumbai in the 1980s for consumption in India’s small towns, Miss Lovely made a strong statement on behalf of India’s new independent cinema.

Miss Lovely has clearly emerged from a sensibility that is at variance with the cinematic idiom that drives conventional Indian storytelling and Ahluwalia made it a point to assert that reality right at the outset. “Indian cinema evokes pre-conceived notions but please see this film with an open mind,” the director said.

Introducing the film to the audience in the presence of the Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, Ahluwalia revealed that Miss Lovely had been wrapped up only “four-five days ago”. He added: “Most of the cast and crew have yet to see the final cut of the film.”

Shot mostly in musty, smoke-filled, dimly lit spaces, the film journeys into the dark, dangerous underbelly of the mid-1980s Mumbai movie industry, a section of which churned out crude sex-laden horror films that fetched profits in the smaller towns of the country.

At the heart of the Miss Lovely are two brothers who despite being in the same shadowy trade are temperamentally completely unlike each other. The elder brother Vicky (Delhi actor Anil George) is a cynical, unscrupulous womanizer who exploits the wannabe starlets who come to him in quest of fame and money only to degenerate into emotional and moral wrecks.

Sonu (Nawazudding Siddiqui), on the other hand, is barely inclined to play along with the profligate ways of his brother. He wants to break free from the muck and make a romantic film with Pinky (former Miss Earth India Niharika Singh), a pretty girl he saw on a train journey from Ajmer. Vicky puts a spanner in Sonu’s works and their lives hurtle out of control with tragic consequences.

The initial portions of Miss Lovely wear a retro look and rhythm reminiscent of the shoddily produced sex and horror movies of an era gone by. As the plot progresses, Ahluwalia’s style turns increasingly low-key and gloomy, with the raw emotions and deep frustrations of those in the middle, but never in control, of this fly-by-night movie industry assuming an ominously urgent edge.           

Mumbai is the backdrop of the film all right, but the manner in which director of photography Mohanan captures its closed spaces and the exteriors of buildings and the streets make the city look nothing like it usually does on the screen.

An air of claustrophobia pervades the film: it allows only stray glimpses of the open Mumbai sky and the windows rarely, if ever, open out into the wider world outside. The spaces that Miss Lovely negotiates are putrid and depressing and the people who inhabit them are weighed down under the lack of fresh air in this messy universe.       

Ahluwalia extracts great performances from his three principal actors, letting them explore their inner emotional convolutions largely through silences. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is once again on top of his game, while both Anil George and Niharika Singh pull off their jobs with skill and sensitivity.   
 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017