Wednesday, February 5, 2014


As a school going kid of 80s, I had wondered looking at the pulp posters of those queer  B & C grade cinemas running in my small town. In those days, Ramsay Brothers are in full form as 'Veerana' scaled a new height at box office in my home town. Hemant Birje was a new He-Man with this and his smashing debut in B Subhash's 'Tarzan'. I enjoyed watching ‘Veerana’, ‘Bandh Darwaja’, ‘Saamri’, ‘Tahkhana’  of cult Ramsay Bros enterprise. As each of these horror flick also fulfilled the desirable fun through its formulaic sex scenes; I managed to watch some of them with all guilty pleasure enjoying my first trip of immature adulthood. The titles of the film resembles much with those of Hindi pocket books, ranging from ‘Ek Raat Shaitan Ke Sath’, ‘Raat ke Andhere Main’, ‘Chudail Ki Raat’, ‘Khoon Ki Pyasi’,  ‘Khooni Panja’ to ‘Shaitani Dracula’ and many other varieties.  Some of the titles I’ve watched either on local cablewallah's VCR screening in those days. Those were the days, when I digest all sort of shit with equal amount of enthusiasm! Watching ‘Miss Lovely’ is quite a surprising treat on that account, as amid all other impressions, being nostalgic for a while is first and quite a personal one!

Ashim Ahluwalia’s this recently released film has garnered enough attention due to its showcasing at Cannes and the rave reviews it generated in cinephilia from quite some time.  And then for its long awaiting release as the director was struggling with Indian Censor Board to release it with lesser cuts. Reading Ashim’s happy and satisfactory remarks, I am sure; the audience isn’t missing anything significant in the cut version. As the film opens, it leads us to the narrative of younger Duggal brother, Sonu trapped as misfit into the business of B and C grade horror- sexploitation cinema produced by his elder brother Vicky. What we see next is the seedy and dark nexus of this underground filmmaking. Struggling callgirls, extra artists or occasional escorts wanted to climb the ladder by showing their skin. Producers and directors aiming big connections, financers satisfying their hush hush fetish and fantasy to new girls each night and amid all a misfit protagonist struggling to find an escape route through feelings and impulse for love. And then we see the shattering chaos first with breach of trust followed by Police raid and exposing the double face of authority and society through some detached and un-emphasized observation. It’s from here onwards the film lost its connection and touch. The film crumbles in the last half an hour and letting the audience feel the drag and shoddy; first it questions the screenplay, then made a flat appeal to characterization and finally to the very base of the film. Somewhere in the last half an hour, Ahluwalia lost the grip and control of its overall interesting hybrid fragmentary psychedelic trip. 

Though what seem interesting and impressive part of the film is its minimalist and experimental form than content. The inspiration here is ranging from some of the finest Masters of the world cinema. From Giallo king Dario Argento’s flauroscent color palettes to Japanese Masters ranging from Imamura, Oshima and Seijun Suzuki to current New Wave filmmakers of South Korean cinema.

The film is refreshing helluva treat in style for its experimental play with the medium.  Especially the Visuals and textures to the frames and eye for detailing to 80’s Hindi pulp horror cum sexploitation cinema. The overall mood of the first half of the film transport its viewers to that milieu and its grimy underground  of sleaze and regressive and repressed Indian sex satisfied at general under popular dark and private chambers of cinema halls! What is interesting about the film is that it pays fine homage not only to 80s B & C Grade horror- sexploitation cinemas of Talwar-Ramsay Bros  but also authentically detailed feel it gave to its visuals. Whether it’s 80’s underground Mumbai to its meticulous detailing of the period ranging from B&W Television with Delhi Doordarshan Newreader vibrating on blurring screen to stereo Cassette player, All India Radio advertisements, Ambassador cars and above all amazing background score reminding 80s trendy pop music score. Illaiyaraja & Biddu-Nazia Hassan are fine choices, even though the senior Southern Maestro hasn’t scored much for Hindi cinema, he knew the technical pulse and sound of that period in musical terms a way better than any of today’s talent. Biddu-Nazia’s ‘Disco Deewane’ and ‘Aap jaisa koi’ are major happening cult hits of that period, the climax club house track is quite a nostalgic to the period too! 

The actors have surely done their credible parts well but each and every time good actors lost something to screen when the director tries hard to prove himself as the next auteur and the happening New Wave of Hindi cinema is terribly suffering from that infectious syndrome. Even Ahluwalia is not an exception here. Nawaz once again played character so appropriate for him and I’m so hopeful to see more of his capabilities to play versatile characters, even if belong to same class and milieu. Niharika as Miss Lovely has nothing much to offer except playing the expected bait of her character.  But for me its Anil George, playing Nawaz’s elder brother grabs enough attention as fine surprise. Didn’t know that the man is a wonderful stage actor, hope we’ll see more of his talent to cinema pretty soon.

Two of my facebook friends and fellow ciniphiles sum up their opinion about the film so succinctly-
“What lacks here is a definite, cohesive vision that could have taken all the jarring elements and unified them into one harmonious whole,” said Amitava Das. “He (Ahluwalia) lost it somewhere in the middle of making a documentary and a gripping fiction,” said Ankita Ghosh.  Hope next time, we see better cinema from a controlled filmmaker.  All the best Ahluwalia!   

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