This is one director who's born in Mumbai and has grown up watching Bollywood films, but has very non-Bollywood sensibilities. Meet Ashim Ahluwalia, director of much-acclaimed Miss Lovely, who's awaiting the release of his film in India, but has zero expectations from the film.
And rightly so, because the film -- starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Niharika Singh and Anil George -- that has been made on a shoestring budget of Rs 4.5 cr, has already recovered money from the overseas market (including South Africa). "Whatever we'll earn in the Indian market would be a bonus," says Ahluwalia, who's also awaiting the film's release in France next month.
A Bollywood fan who makes experimental cinema
The story of Miss Lovely's birth is also interesting. The film that was originally planned as a documentary finally took the form of a fiction film because of professional hazards.
Bollywood lovers, who want their dose of drama and emotions, might be in for a disappointment as the film follows a very experimental narrative. So, will the Indian audiences be able to enjoy it?
"Frankly, the film was not made keeping Indian audience in mind. I never thought it would get released in India, for that matter. The film has a very different storytelling style. The cinema is opening up in India, but the taste of Indian viewers cannot change overnight. It's an organic process. But, I'm not worried because I've made what I believe in."
Though Ashim did not make Miss Lovely for Bollywood audiences, he closely followed the cinema of 1980's (Disco, Dancer, Karate Kid etc). "I was a Kumar Gaurav fan," he reveals. Bollywood, however, is not his style. "In Bollywood, everybody has a punchline. Nobody says unfinished lines. I don't come from that school. My style is very naturalistic."
Where characters and actors meet
Ahluwalia wants his cinema to be real. No wonder, he gauged the state of mind of his lead actors before casting them, for he wanted their real life to spill into their characters in Miss Lovely.
"Nawazuddin was a struggling actor when he was signed for the film (in 2009). He was frustrated with the kind of roles Bollywood was offering him. He thought he was not being given his due. He was getting very small roles that did not do justice to his talent. Nawaz's character in Miss Lovely (Sonu) is also undergoing the same emotional turmoil. It was easy for me to capture that on screen. That's how I cast my actors," says Ahluwalia.
Niharika Singh was also cast in the similar way. "Niharika Singh was also frustrated when I signed her. She had signed two Bollywood films. One of them was with Himesh Reshammiya that never released, and the other film never happened. She plays Pinki in the film who's a struggling actress," adds the filmmaker.
"I make sure that my actors don't act. They have to be themselves. The performances should not be forced. I never dictate what I want from them, I just let them be."
Dirty Picture inspired by Miss Lovely?
The director was quoted as saying at an event that Vidya Balan starrer The Dirty Picture was "inspired by Miss Lovely". Can he reveal more about it?
"One of the studios we approached for the film was Balaji. They said such films are not made under their banner and rejected my script. Six months later, The Dirty Picture was announced, which was based on a similar concept. What else would I think?"
The director is clear about his future strategy too. "I'm not interested in Rs 100 cr- 200 cr films. I want to contribute to the bigger picture."
That's a lovely thought! We sign off on this note.
What the film is about
Miss Lovely revolves around two brothers Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Vicky (Anil George), who produce blue films by sexually exploiting young women who aspire to make it big in showbiz.
The project that started out as a documentary was turned into fiction by director Ashim Ahluwalia who earlier got acclaim (including a National award) for his debut documentary John & Jane.