It isn’t the first time that a film has tried to hold a mirror to the film industry. Art films to commercial films, Luck By Chance and Dirty Picture to Heroine, there have been numerous attempts to highlight changes behind the scenes and screens over the years.
But despite the oft-repeated film-about-films genre, Miss Lovely stands out with its hard look at the dark depths of the Bombay film industry and a quirky narrative space operating on various levels of illusion and reality.
Haven’t we all seen some of those obscure and lesser films of the Eighties with an excess of glitter, gore and sleaze where the local zamindar and his wife, who can’t bear his child, fall prey to a priest or where a young woman gets fanged by a grisly man masked as Dracula? Bandh Darwaza or Purana Mandir, anyone?
With Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia does not really try to critique the industry or whet people’s appetite for stars and their private lives as much as he tries to provide a rare window into that shadowed world of Bollywood that combined horror and porn and came into its own as a distinct genre in the mid-Eighties.
It’s a tale of two brothers, Vicky (Anil George) and Sonu Duggal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who turn partners-in-crime to produce and direct sleazy horror films. If Vicky goes the easy route of giving in to goons and running the film racket in order to turn rich overnight, the other dreams of making a romantic film called Miss Lovely. Thus begins his search for Miss Lovely, till he chances upon the sweet and innocent Pinky (Niharika Singh) and falls in love only to discover her shadowy past that sends him spiralling into a complex web and a desperate effort to survive.
Dark, edgy and atmospheric, Miss Lovely evolves from a docu-drama to a story of crime and passion, ending in almost a psychological thriller.
What we see is not the usual film sets, talent managers, casting couch or cinematography the way we know it. Nudity, sex and pleasure as a way of business, mechanical moans and groans, hyperactive camerawork, highs and lows of being a director and producer of C-grade films, weave the story in more than one dimension. On the other hand, the sounds and visuals dominated by saxophone solos, disco nights, Eighties glitzy pop culture, vintage clothes and cityscape captured through rose-tinted frames help build the mood and tempo of the times.
Nawazuddin scores yet another triumph capturing different emotional states as he transitions from a naive filmmaker with simple dreams to a psychotic, ruthless soul who evokes pity. Niharika as the prospective Miss Lovely is refreshing as she floats through moods and moments, her eyes brimming with innocent dreams as she switches to emotionally-intense scenes with Nawazuddin before disclosing her shady past and loss of innocence.
Unabashedly OTT, in-your-face tacky, and minutely detailed to the power of authenticity, Miss Lovely is a little ball of fire that blazes through a very different world of movies that never reached a level of social acceptance nor made it to the mainstream.
But if you want to take the lid off and peek into the real dirty picture, do wait for a date with Miss Lovely.