Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely was one of the most highly anticipated films at the Mumbai Film Festival. And in the newly introduced competition section for Indian feature films, ‘India Gold’, it was awarded Best Film and received the Golden Gateway of India Trophy and a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.
According to the Ashim, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s presence in the film had a part to play in that. The subject the movie deals with — the C grade film industry — has too. We got the director to talk about us.
You said you were working on a documentary that led to the making of Miss Lovely. What was the documentary about?
I actually wanted to make one about the C grade film industry. I went to film school in the US, I grew up in Mumbai and when I came back, I didn’t feel connected to what was happening in Bollywood. There was no vibe. Then I started seeing these posters of films that I’d seen when I was in school. That was the only way you could watch this stuff in the ’80s. So I got really intrigued and I was amazed that the stuff was still being made.
Back the day, if you went to any working class cinema, they were watching Daku Bhairav Singh, not watching Amitabh Bachchan. He was only being watched by the upper middle class audience. Working class and smaller town audiences were watching Joginder. I’m taking sides here, in this film. I’m siding with Joginder over Amitabh (laughs).
How long are the sex film reels that are inserted in the middle of feature films?
Eleven minutes. In the ’50s, you’d be watching a Dara Singh film, and then suddenly a Swedish porn scene would come in for 11 minutes. In ’50s and ’60s, this was smuggled in, in the ’70s we started making our own stuff. You could buy an entire two-hour film for Rs 50,000, but each of these reels would cost Rs 1 lakh each. The whole system works around those sex scenes.
Your film hasn’t been censored yet. Would you be willing to cut it?
I have to be comfortable with how much is chopped. If you cut it to a point where you won’t know what’s happening, then you won’t have any context. It hasn’t got that much nudity; it’s just the tone and the language. I don’t know how much of that they’ll let go. We’ll know if the release is happening in India within a month or so. If not, we’ll do a few press screenings.
How much did the film cost you?
By the end, it was almost around Rs 6 crore. Most of it is co-production money, which is why there was a stipulation that it had to release in other markets first.
You cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui when he wasn’t well-known. He’s popular now. Does that change how you wanted your film to be viewed?
In my ideal world, it would have been great if nobody knew him, but from a distribution point of view it is good that he is seen as an upcoming star. And honestly, it was his first film. It was his first lead. He’s a really talented actor. I’m very glad that there’s space for him in this industry system. It gives me some faith that maybe it’s not all mediocre people out there.