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Ugly review: It's dark and dystopian

If fairy tales exist, so must nightmares. But Bollywood so often escapes into the former - happy, carefree romances, or unreal stories of achievement - that Ugly comes as a shock.

movie reviews Updated: Dec 26, 2014 17:28 IST
Sarit Ray
Sarit Ray
Hindustan Times




Rahul Bhat, Ronit Roy, Girish Kulkarni, Tejaswini Kolhapure


Anurag KashyapIt's all about the



If fairy tales exist, so must nightmares. But Bollywood so often escapes into the former - happy, carefree romances, or unreal stories of achievement - that Ugly comes as a shock. It's set in Mumbai, a not-uncommon backdrop. But through Anurag Kashyap's lens, it's not the 'city of dreams'. It's dark and dystopian, with an underbelly so, well, ugly, that dreams here are destined to turn horrific.

In its basic premise, Ugly is a crime thriller. A little girl goes missing, and her parents - the father is a struggling actor named Rahul Kapoor (Rahul Bhat); the mother (Tejaswini Kolhapure); and her second husband, also a top cop, Shoumik Bose (Ronit Roy) - try every desperate measure to find her. The story progresses as each of them chases their own leads, hunches, dead ends and distractions.

Watch: Ugly trailer

Kashyap himself isn't one to chase endings. While he keeps the mystery alive, he's using the premise to push his characters into revealing their true selves - to themselves, and to those around them. He's not dealing with unreal heroes who rise to the occasion, solve intricate puzzles and save the day. These are people with frailties, and a capacity for evil. Of course, Kashyap exaggerates, focusing purely on what's dark in them, and in the world that made them that way - even to the point of negating hope or the capacity for good. But then, this is a nightmare. And his Mumbai, with its squalid slums, covert dance bars, and shuttered single-screen theatres, forms a worthy backdrop.

Kashyap also takes a cynical look at the Bollywood struggler - shattering the oft-peddled feel-good stories of youngsters miraculously finding fame. Rahul is past his prime, lives in poverty and cannot pay his own bills. His ex-wife, saved from an abusive marriage by Bose, is now little more than a prisoner in her own home, battling suicidal tendencies.

Bose is the most predictable character, a male chauvinist with a tendency towards violence. He fits the stereotype of the cop, and of the character type Ronit Roy often finds himself in.

Together, in their twisted, dysfunctional relationships, they are like the crudely fitted pieces of a horrible puzzle.

Yet the most delightful performance comes from Marathi actor Girish Kulkarni. As the cop in whose area the crime occurred, he cross-questions Rahul and his friend, Chaitanya (Vineet Singh), in an absurd, 15-minute scene. He interjects, goes off on tangents about adopted names of Bollywood actors and features of smartphones. Kashyap is at his best here, inserting dark, nonsensical humour into a tragic situation.

As thrillers go, Ugly's resolution isn't the most satisfying. There's no dazzling twist at the end. Yet it works because you recognise this as the world you inhabit. And it reminds you that it takes just a trigger for the seemingly ordinary to turn ugly - into the sort of stories you read about in the newspaper, the sort that could be happening around you right now.