Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ugly (2013)

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writer:    Anurag Kashyap
Cast:       Rahul Bhat. Ronit Roy, Vineet Kumar Singh, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Girish Kulkarni
Language: Hindi

A terrible tale of corruption, indifference, and systemic violence starts when 10 year old daughter of an aspiring actor disappears. His ex-wife and mother of the child is married to the Police chief with whom he had rivalry over the former since college days. The police suspects him and his friend for kidnapping the girl and all of them lose sight about the fate of the missing girl as they think with their guts instead of brains.  

Film starts with the claim that it is based on true events but I really doubt whether it was this convoluted in reality. When it finished, I was wondering whether all of it make any sense and on reflection, to be fair, almost all of it can be explained away in some way or the other. But it still leaves you with the feeling that something is amiss. It might have been better if Anurag hadn't gone for the slight twist at the end wherein the father gets away with the ransom money thinking that girl is anyway with the Police and they are trying to trap him all along. We are shown early on that his friend was calling him demanding ransom money and the whole thing about the father trying to rob the Jewelry store suggests that he was not in the know about the friend's plans till late. The friend must have convinced him later on that the kidnap is a fake one and he should take the money and run. I can't understand why he would believe that since the Police Chief is cooperating with him to find the girl and that wouldn't have been the case if  he was trying to frame him. It would have made more sense if he thought the mother might have kidnapped the girl instead for money reasons. That would be keeping with the overall theme of the film having all the three characters trying to benefit in some way from the disappearance. The three broken characters- mother with drinking problem who doesn't particularly care for her child, father with failed acting career and the Police Chief with false sense of righteousness who snoops on his wife's phone calls; are a reflection of the corrupt and systemic clusterfuck that Indian society is. Film would've worked better if it strictly stuck to those aspects rather than trying to be commercial by having a very mysterious and convoluted plot. One film that manages to do very well with great balance having such a theme is the Chinese film from last year, 'Black Coal, Thin Ice'.

Film was supposed to be released in 2013 but ran into problems with the CBFC (Censor Board) as they insisted on putting 'smoking is dangerous' warning in all the scenes depicting smoking. Anurag Kashyap finally relented late last year, with the promise that he will continue his battle regarding the same in future. Good luck with that then! The best scene from the film is when the father and his friend go to the station to report the kidnapping. It is a fair reflection of how people are treated by Indian bureaucracy, with the Police Inspector asking inane questions about his acting career, technicalities involved with casting and finally about how a picture of the caller appears in a phone. That scene is hilarious and another one like that is there later on with the father demanding alcohol to be served in a fast food joint. When the restaurant owner starts dialing the phone, he confronts him for calling the Police when in reality he was only trying to arrange the alcohol for him. That sums up the 'anything goes' culture that we are following and it has even been given some sort of recognition with that utterly cringe-worthy term -Jugaad, which the management consultant dickwads like to use. The former scene at the Police station is very Tarantinosque and has a set-piece sort of quality to it.

Overall the film is a very good watch with some excellent performances from almost all of the actors involved and a very gritty depiction of the modern Indian urban hell. It would have been great had he gone less commercial with it. His next film, Bombay Velvet, is slated for release in May this year and it looks a very commercial one by his standards if you go by the cast list. Sad to see Anurag Kashyap changing from being a hipster to mainstream.

Rating: 3.5/5