The work of director Ashim Ahluwalia and his cinematographer K.U. Mohanan on Miss Lovely is so meticulous that I almost forgot for two hours that I was watching a film. And I couldn’t believe that it was made in India. I thought I was dreaming. It’s one of those films that I knew I would fall in love with just after seeing its opening credits and the opening scene. If shown uncensored in multiplexes, someone might turn violent and start talking about sanskriti, as does few characters in the film. This is a country where a lot of people are interested in pornography but you are most likely going to get into trouble if you make a film about that and show it in public.
Uncompromisingly bold and vicious, the film narrates the story of two brothers – both softcore porn filmmakers – Vikki Duggal and Sonu Duggal, played by Anil George and Nawazuddin Siddiqui respectively. Both are polar opposites. The younger Sonu is fed up and frustrated of assisting his brother and aspires to be a mainstream director making romantic films – someone like Karan Johar. He is looking for a beautiful actress and the necessary money to make it happen. When things become too unbearable, he decides to be a little reckless. His life takes a turn for the worse when an alluring young actress named Pinky (Niharika Singh), enters his life. Ahluwalia paints India’s B (or C) movie industry as a place that is as seedy and dangerous as the Bombay underworld.
Everyone is trying to be one step ahead of the other. They are willing to experiment with all sorts of things and the film doesn’t shy away from showing some of the most shocking and lurid details. However, it’s not as exploitative as the very films these men are making and, at times, the camera looks away and leaves everything to the imagination. Everything looks so raw, gritty and authentic that you can almost smell the cigarette smoke, the liquor in the glasses and the perfumes worn by the actresses. And you can also sense the discomfort of the actresses when the sleazy producers turn their lecherous gaze toward them. Every girl they find is a “product” and they gather like vultures whenever a new one arrives at the market.
Although you begin to experience an intense disgust for them and their nasty world, you don’t feel like looking away because Ahluwalia makes it all look so fascinating and thoroughly absorbing. Mohanan’s camera moves through dingy corridors and dilapidated warehouses and gives you a palpable sense of the real ugliness lurking beneath. I was already impressed by Mohanan’s work on Don and Talaash but my admiration for him has grown tenfold after witnessing the international level work he has done here. There is a strong film-noir vibe throughout – Sonu reminded me of Richard Widmark’s character from Jules Dassin’s Night and the City. The unhurried pace might bother those who are so used to mainstream masala films and one can see why the film won’t work for them.