Dark, disturbing and disorienting, Miss Lovely is the sort of film grips viewers by the gullet and drags them into a claustrophobic crevice.
In other words, it isn’t an easy film to watch. It demands total attention and a willing surrender to its unusual narrative rhythm.
The visual texture, the editing patterns and the sound design of this provocative portrait of Mumbai’s dystopian sex-horror film industry of the 1980s are all aimed at generating discomfiture.
Brother is pitted against brother in a shady arena ruled by greed, ambition, licentiousness and criminality.
In the end, all that is left are shattered lives, dashed dreams and chastened survivors scrambling to get back on their feet only to discover that the ground beneath has moved.
Watching Miss Lovely is at times akin to being flung into a sludgy whirlpool. At others it has the effect of a corkscrew being drilled into the head.
Miss Lovely is unlike anything that has been produced before in Indian cinema. Hence it is absolutely futile to look for past references in order to either slap a convenient label on the film or make sense of it in a particular generic context.
The sensibility on display in Miss Lovely is unique but it isn’t an overtly arthouse film. Nor is it outright pulp. Stylization and sleaze coalesce organically in Miss Lovely, serving the purpose of depicting a precise time, place and culture in Hindi cinema history.
It is, all at once, a love story, a fratricidal drama, a chronicle of a grimy segment of Mumbai showbiz, a saga of rampant amorality, and even probably an expression of despair at the decline of cinema.
What is exceptional is none of the narrative strands stands distinctly apart from the others. They all flow, in an intertwined and overlapping manner, into the overall pastiche.
Director AshimAhluwalia (who has, in true auteur tradition, also co-written the film’s finely chiseled screenplay and worked on its extraordinarily evocative sound design and editing) brings alive the putrid cesspool that the world of sexploitation flicks of the 1980s represented.
While the action takes place in an era gone by and hinges on a handful of slimy characters, many of whom are both blatant exploiters and hapless victims of a mess of their own making, Miss Lovely is a subliminal dig at any cinema that is driven by the profit-at-all-cost principle.