Ashim Ahluwalia's Miss Lovely has everything that a Bollywood audience does not expect, does not have an appetite for. Yet, it has a storyline that would have made for a perfect Bollywood potboiler. Despite the 'opportunity', the national award winning director (he won the award for his first documentary film John & Jane), Ahluwalia goes for an experimental style instead, which is rare to Indian cinema.
Bollywood has delved into the 'dark lanes' of parallel cinema many times before, but it is probably for the first time that these dark lanes actually stink, and it reaches your nostrils. So much so, that the experience of watching a movie is uncomfortable, painful and at some points horrible, instead of enjoyable.
Dump that packet of popcorn
This is exactly in contrast with the light cinema (read Ek Tha Tiger, Krrish, Housefull et al) that bags Rs. 100-200 crore at ticket windows and the cinema that you book tickets for because you want to forget your worries, laugh your hearts out, hail the larger than life hero, munch the popcorn leisurely, and hum along with the dhinchak tunes of those item numbers. What Miss Lovely does to you is just the opposite. You don't feel like biting into your samosa (or much on the popcorn), you come face-to-face with the reality of a parallel universe you were probably not very familiar with and wait for the protagonist's life to change desperately. You come out breathless. You want to wipe out that blood off Nawazuddin Siddiqui's face towards the climax. Oops, did I reveal the plot. I think, I didn't.
Here goes the story...
Two brother Sonu Duggal (Anil George) and Vicky Duggal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) produce C-grade horror movies with generous amount of porn in them. While Vicky enjoys his job (he exploits the wannabe actresses), Sonu is frustrated and can do anything (steal, forge, manipulate) to make it on his own as a 'romantic film director'. He does get an opportunity when he meets innocent Pinky, a girl who's looking for a break in film industry. He decides to make a clean film, taking her in the lead and even zeroes in on the distributor. Will he finally be able to make that film? What will Vicky do when he finds out that his younger brother is trying to venture out on his own?
Miss Lovely: the two worlds
Miss Lovely though has an experimental narrative style, it borrows the settings of 1980's Mumbai. The opening credits of the film as well as the climax song, all reflect the cinema of that era. There are two worlds in Miss Lovely - the real and the reel. The reel portions of the movie are heavily borrowed from the B-grade horror movies that were being made around that time. It is the 'real' world in the movie that is scary (not horror).
The 'real' performances
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who has acted in this film before his much acclaimed performances in Gangs of Wasseypur, Kahani and Peepli Live, is effortless in his portrayal. The actor keeps his face straight most of the time and limits his expressions. He lets his body language talk. He breaks into sweat when he's doing something wrong, he doesn't blink his eyes when he falls in love.
Niharika Singh makes a confident debut with Miss Lovely and her performance is very natural. It doesn't appear it's her debut film. Her character has many layers and she does justice to each one of them.
Anil George as a lusty, greedy filmmaker of C-grade cinema slips into his character with aplomb. He doesn't go overboard with drama, yet makes an impact, which is a commendable trait.
Camera: the outsider
Much like the film's unconventional narrative, the camera work by KU Mohanan is equally experimental. The camera has its own mood swings and it refuses to capture a perfect frame. Instead of being present inside the scene, it observes from outside.
All in all, the film is bound to make you uncomfortable, but also brings the contentment of experiencing something new in cinema.