Sunday, 19 January 2014

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places - Some Thoughts on Miss Lovely.

I have grown weary of movies that begin with a character narrating about his past. In most cases, this narrator is a guy, a hapless one and he usually ends up dying or losing the girl. In certain cases like About a Boy, High Fidelity or even Savages, it ends up defining the movie and making it better.
In Miss Lovely, Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) serves our window to the world of seedy C-grade filmmakers. He speaks reluctantly and regretfully. That's similar to the way he works in the business of C-grade filmmaking. He's only assisting and doing menial jobs for his older brother Vicky (Anil George).
While Sonu is hoping to switch to something else, Vicky is the big brother with big plans. He's liaising with some big shots to up the 'production value' and 'star cast' for his next C-grade Citizen Kane. Miss Lovely's plot slowly simmers to a form a coherent story and give its tragic conclusion. (It's an indie film about C-grade films, were you expecting a happy ending?)

But like most stories, Miss Lovely is not about what it says but how it says it. We see Sonu struggling to make peace with what he does for a living while his brother bullying him into buying his plans. If you have an older sibling, you can understand the power dynamics of their relationship. Older siblings often convince and sometimes command their younger ones to do their bidding. Here Nawazuddin borrows some cues from his 'Faizal' from Wasseypur. He's a short, stick thin chap, who's always looking at his feet as if admitting his submissiveness. Notice how in nearly every conversation with Vicky and even in their confrontations, Sonu's spine is slightly arched, as if even after 40 years, he's still supplicating to his brother.

Like all C-grade movies, Miss Lovely's plot is anchored around women. Most just mere playthings, unwillingly obliging to the shady men and all exploited by the seedy system. Well nearly all except Pinky (the astonishing debut from the Aditi Rao Hydari-lookalike Niharika Singh). Pinky plays it smooth. Curving her luscious lips innocently enough and showing Sonu her photographs when he tells her he's a director.
She's the femme fatale which most 80s C-grade flicks never had. When her secrets are revealed, you won't be exactly surprised but realise that the only sympathetic person in this story is Sonu. And what makes him so sympathetic? He really wants to get out of the business. He lies to Pinky about being a director but he's so sincere that he actually steals from his brother just so he can make a proper clean 'romantic film' with her.
I am a child of the 90s. I grew up when it became hard to separate the world from the world wide web. I never had to get my kicks from C-grade films. I haven't even seen any C-grade movie in its entirety. I have seen bits here and there while channel surfing and some stuff that goes viral because of its sheer hilarity. That being said, the makers of Miss Lovely went to great length to get its look just right. The grainy Technicolor look is just right. What's better is it works wonders for all the foreign film festival film shots too. And there are plenty of those here. A vulture hanging over Vicky's head while he is in hiding. A shot of Sonu walking down a narrow corridor to pursue Pinky cueing that this is a dead end.

Normally, audiences don't notice sound design. It's always in the background but Miss Lovely is possibly the only film where I felt the usage of sound was extremely pronounced. Each hammer, scratch, screech used to add to the milieu. I particularly enjoyed when the rattle of a camera in action goes up as Sonu and Vicky's conflict escalates.

On most parts Miss Lovely is a good but a flawed film. I recommend you to watch it for the Nawazuddin Siddiqui's hapless Sonu, Anil George's manipulative misogynistic ploys and Niharika Singh's bitch-aari Pinky. Mister Ashim Ahluwalia take a bow, we are waiting for your next.

PS: There's always something I miss out. I wasn't ever around in the 80s, so if I say they got the period details right, it'd be ridiculous. I really admired a scene where they managed to show moving traffic using 3 Ambassadors and a Maruti 800. And, if anyone knows the name of the long-haired guy who plays the C-film director, e-mail it to me. His long locks win the most ridiculous hairdo in films award for 2014.
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