I have read Ashim Ahluwalias interviews with great interest and enjoyment.Here is a man unabashedly against much that Bollywood does and I find myself agreeing with most of his views most of the time.Last year I spent a delightful day with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui discussing film and his work on Miss Lovely with Mr Ahluwalia. Although Nawazuddin is not as radical as Mr Ahluwalia I was touched by his sensitivity and clarity about how he wants to move forward with his career.He wants to act in all kinds of film, in some to make money and in some to find creative fulfilment.After watching Miss Lovely I am sure he found lots to identify himself with in this film as he struggled for more than a decade to make it big in Bollywood.
I finally managed to watch this critically acclaimed film last week on a wonderful DVD released by NFDC which co-produced this film.A film examining the dirty underbelly of the lower depths of Bombay’s C grade horror and soft porn films did not excite me as a subject.The bad taste of Dirty Picture was still in my mouth which tried to recycle the dirt of soft porn as entertainment for the classes and masses by hiring the classy Vidya Balan to give us a generous peek into her cleavage.She was the best thing in the film but after 90 minutes it became quite unwatchable and I and my wife had to walk out.
But Miss Lovely is a different animal altogether.The remarkable thing about this film is that it never tries to exploit its material for cheap thrills or even an emotional wallop.Mr Ahluwalia throws us into the depths of the gutters of Bollywood.What we see are desperate men and women trapped in their sordid life which once glimmered with hopes of tinsel town glory. Nawazuddin’s character Sonu and his brother Vikki( a brilliant Anil George) make porn films which are inserted into C grade horror films during screenings to provide release to the audience which is not interested in the film at all but waits patiently for the sex scenes to come on.Yes I have been part of such an audience when I was a teenager.Those were the days before the internet came and democratized porn.
Each frame of the film is crafted with care and composed with precision.That this is no masala film about masala films is quite clear throughout.The director is less interested in the story and narrative arc and more in evoking the mood and feel of this sad world.The craft of the film is stunning, the art design and costumes are executed with such care and precision that the visuals themselves are enough to keep your eyes peeled to the screen.A rare feat in Indian cinema.I constantly wondered about the research that Mr Ahluwalia must have done to arrive at this intimate knowledge of the world he creates.And this film made me constantly think of Salaam Bombay and cinéma vérité style of which Miss Lovely is undoubtedly a great example.It also made me think of Boogie Nights by Paul Anderson which is a wonderful film about the porn industry in California in the nineties.Now those are good reasons to watch this very solid and ambitious film.