The camera follows a cop in a long slow shot of a filthy urinal corridor.
Cut to a tall man and a starkly made up woman undressing, their expressions, matter of fact.
A couple of similar cuts later, the shot is as sleazily erotic as it can get.
A woman’s legs are seen, thrown up apart, her moans loud. A cameraman bends over her, trying to get as close an angle as possible. Another man, (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), leans in, holding up a flashlight.
The scene cuts again to the cop and a man with a cash filled briefcase in the urinal. The man happens to be Nawaz’s brother.
Miss Lovely, which premiered at 2012 Cannes film festival, is full of such images. The sounds are even more explicit. Especially, the whirl of a film reel being played out in old, dilapidated cinema halls. The dialogues are far and few. The dimly lit, handheld shots, stretch most times. This could have been a documentary on C grade cinema, which is what the director, Ashim Ahluwalia, had set out to make, initially.
C grade films have been part of the history of Indian cinema after the 70s until Internet porn took over. So far, one has only been a witness to seedy posters on building walls in Mumbai. Miss Lovely attempts to expose the murky, unknown world, behind the ‘dirty’ scenes.
Miss Lovely begins with a title soundtrack of the 80s and freezes for a second on a close up of a woman’s red contact lensed eyes. A horror film is playing in a small theatre.The screen goes blank for a few seconds. Audience protest sounds are heard. Soon a woman in red lingerie is seen. The protests are replaced with complete silence.
Sonu Duggal’s (Nawazuddin) voiceover tells us how he regrets having sold that first print of a blue film for his brother, Vicky (Anil George). He wants to direct a romantic film called Miss Lovely, starring a young, innocent Pinky, he is head over heels in love with. “Tum ek din star banogi ,” he tells her. The oldest promise of tinsel town. The hitch is, his brother also has his dirty eyes on her, for a different reason. Vicky’s business has just taken off, with his first “bhayankar adult film” titled ‘Beauty Parlour’. In his words the film’s impact will be “do ghante mein do hazaar jhatke”. Dressed in shiny, printed, satin shirts, surrounded by aspiring ‘adult’ film heroines at premiers overflowing with liquor, Vicky is drunk on his newfound power.
The story, here onwards, tries to be a dark and disturbing tale of double cross and disillusionment. However, it fails to hold and is not half as intense as the premise. The focus remains on the making of blue films, half naked bodies, the murky atmosphere, reminiscent of Madhur Bhandarkar’s Chandni Bar. The screenplay stretches and the abrupt editing, takes away any possibility of the viewer’s involvement with the characters.
Nawazuddin tries to be as authentic as possible but somehow, does not make the required impact. Anil George, who plays his brother, is excellent in the way he slips into his character.
The actor to watch out for brilliant versatility is Niharika Singh who plays Miss Lovely. Her best expressions are glimpsed in the only song in the film, which is incidentally a Nazia Hassan song, a delight from the 80s treatment of the film.
The set and costume designs as well as the textured cinematography by Mohanan, are noteworthy in their detailing and authenticity. Another achievement is in Ahluwallia having managed to get the film passed through the censor board.
Miss Lovely, has its flaws but makes up by being a raw, uncomfortable watch and above all, an ugly truth.