Miss Lovely

Miss Lovely

2012, NR, 113 min. Directed by Ashim Ahluwalia. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anil George, Niharika Singh.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., June 27, 2014

A sibling rivalry between two brothers is put to the test; a woman with a past reveals she’s not who she seems; a naive man inadvertently digs himself into a deeper hole when he seeks to claw his way out of it: You’re apt to see those themes, and a few more – with musical numbers – in a lot of Bollywood films. But in Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, the Indian director eschews Bollywood in favor of grindhouse for a self-reflexive take on a piece of India’s bygone past.

Set in the seedy motel rooms and back alleys of late-Eighties Mumbai, Miss Lovely tells the story of the Duggal brothers: lusty, domineering Vicky (George) and brooding, resentful Sonu (Siddiqui), who are prolific producers of C-grade, softcore horror films. With financial backing provided by shady mobsters, the two shoot these illicit films (producing pornography in India is illegal, often with a mandatory jail time) in abandoned warehouses, using a ragtag crew to hold house lamps for lighting, and paying wannabe starlets to have sex with costumed monsters and demons. Sonu has dreams of going legit, of making a proper romance film called Miss Lovely, but removing himself from under his older brother’s thumb becomes increasingly problematic, and this desire fuels much of the film’s narrative. When he meets the seemingly virtuous Pinky (Singh), he thinks he has found his perfect leading lady. Stealing and lying to come up with funds for the project, Sonu’s plans inexorably go south, and the camera is right there to catch it.

Well, maybe not right there. Miss Lovely’s kinetic cinematography, by K.U. Mohanan, recalls the great collaborations between Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle. The handheld camera is constantly moving (viewers susceptible to motion sickness may want to pop a Dramamine), always framing the action off-kilter, and often from a distance, rendering the plot almost second-hand to the rogue’s gallery of unsavory supporting characters filling the screen at any given time, partying and hustling in squalid nightclubs and cramped, de facto offices. This is a film that exudes a sleazy, sinister air, and that is a compliment. The production design alone, the antithesis of glossy Bollywood films, is flawless, with empty liquor bottles, peeling wallpaper, and discarded detritus often overshadowing the actors. It is one of the most beautifully squalid films since the glory days of the Seventies, but Ahluwalia mixes too many genres – thriller, romance, European arthouse – and distances much of the story, leaving the viewer with too much to parse out. Elliptical, authentic, and with a strong palate of visual flair, Miss Lovely can be a confusing concoction at times, but it is never boring.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Ashim Ahluwalia Films
The Field Guide to Evil
Folk horror anthology has intriguing international scares

Richard Whittaker, March 29, 2019

More by Josh Kupecki
Madre
Spanish drama explore the devastating mysteries of loss

Oct. 30, 2020

AFF Review: <i>The Catch</i>
AFF Review: The Catch
Chilly seafront drug heist drama finds a family in crisis

Oct. 27, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anil George, Niharika Singh

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle