There’s no other way of saying this but Miss Lovely didn’t work for me. When I heard what the film was about – the C-grade film industry in the 80s, I was heavily intrigued. While watching the film, the intrigue was replaced with a sense of apathy and boredom. The approach to the story is bold and distinctive but the narrative is fractured. The story, if they wanted to tell one, just isn’t told well. This project started out as a documentary but never ended up becoming a feature film, as the end product doesn’t enthrall or provoke.
The film begins with a wonderful title sequence with retro kaleidoscopic lights. It ends with a song sequence that illuminates the screen. I could only wish the film was more like these parts but clearly that was never the intention of the makers. Certain scenes work but the film, as a whole, failed to move me. This isn’t India’s Boogie Nights (1997) or a companion piece to Salaam Bombay (1988). It strives to be a film that explores its atmosphere and immerses us into it but always dangles on the periphery.
Sonu, the protagonist, is played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is rarely bad in any film but happens to star in bad films sometimes. The plot revolves around two brothers, Sonu and Vicky Duggal who make exploitation films. For two hours, the plot keeps revolving, never managing to find a center. Sonu falls for Pinky (Niharika Singh) and thus begins the slight chance of noir-ish mood piece but it falls into a dreary ditch of tedium with scenes becoming increasingly elliptical and inaccessible.
If you just look at the events that take place in the film, it is the stuff of a taut thriller or even a solid character examination. The milieu is extremely interesting – trashy horror meshed with soft porn. It’s something close to a Grindhouse film on the other side of the globe. Ashim Ahluwalia, the director with documentarian genes, never goes into Anurag Kashyap territory of combining strong filmmaking with storytelling finesse. I don't want this film to go The Dirty Picture (2011) way but if it wants to go the other way, it must take its audience with it, instead of walking the path alone and ending up nowhere.
Without a shred of doubt, the film is technically superb. It’s shot with electric colors and hypnotic hues. The dark texture is palpable. None of it is any consolation for an experience that is devoid of passion. Lack of entertainment isn’t boring but lack of vision certainly is. The vision can be dark or cynical for all you please but there has to be clarity of vision for me to respond to it. Maybe it is my misgiving but if I have to bring to the host more than what it offers the guest, it’s not a sincere gathering.
It’s as if commercial cinema has taken a vow to test your intelligence and art-house cinema has pledged to test your patience. It’s not about making a slow-paced film but a film, which doesn't care enough about the viewer watching it. This is something I can’t wrap my head around. Commercial films do it many times as well but at least some of them are not smug about it. Art-house cinema wears the badge proudly. I’d rather sit through a bad commercial film because it would at least be amusing. There’s clearly something for everyone out there and I’m sure this film will also attract a particular section of the audience, which is good, because nobody should feel left out.
Sadly, I was left with nothing to take back with me. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to sit through this film. Unless you have an appetite for consuming anything that is content with its self-conscious need to call itself art.view less