2.5 Stars (out of 4)
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Miss Lovely is undoubtedly stylish, but to what end? An emphasis on visual aesthetics at the expense of story leaves the viewer adrift in this drama set in the Indian porn industry in the 1980s.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui — who gives another fantastic performance in Miss Lovely — narrates the film. He plays Sonu, the younger of a pair of brothers specializing in C-grade horror-porn. His elder brother, Vicky (Anil George), runs their operation, treating Sonu like a glorified gopher.
Director Ashim Ahluwalia doesn’t explain the structural organization of the illegal porn industry and how the characters fit into it. Vicky and Sonu “make” the movies, though they don’t direct them themselves. They peddle their films through a distributor named Heera (Manoj Bakshi), though they also deal with a bigwig named PK (Ragesh Asthana) who represents some foreign investors. There’s also a little person named Tiku (Zaheer Khan), who is some sort of casting agent.
Things go south when Vicky tries to cut Heera out of the business and distribute their films to theaters directly. Sonu — who’s sick of being bossed around by Vicky — falls in love with a woman he sees on a train, Pinky (Niharika Singh), vowing to make his own movie and turn her into a star. To do so, he steals from his brother.
It’s unclear how Vicky and Sonu actually plan to achieve their ambitions, just that they shouldn’t have them. Fate and everyone else in the industry make the brothers pay for aspiring above their station.
There are a lot of great-looking scenes and shots in Miss Lovely. Wide shots of the brothers’ movie sets are charmingly lowbrow. Party scenes are tacky and vibrant. A shot of Sonu holding a pair of drinks while standing in the middle of a smoky dance floor is beautifully composed.
However, the surfeit of establishing shots just seem like showing off. A dingy exterior shot of factory lasts for ten seconds, only to cut to another dingy shot of the same factory from a different angle. There’s a lot of visual setup with no payoff.
Characters aren’t developed enough to seem like more than representations of character types. Pinky is a woman with a mysterious past, but the revelation of her true nature is glossed over. Even Sonu is so lightly drawn that it’s hard to invest in his success or failure.
The most fleshed out of the characters is sleazy wannabe Vicky. His motivations are obvious, especially in his clumsy attempts to become a power player. He exerts his sexual dominance over women because they’re even less powerful than he is. George is perfectly scummy in the role.
Miss Lovely is a fine showcase of Ahluwalia’s potential, and it’s worth watching to see a director whose career is on the way up. However, as a self-contained story, Miss Lovely is only a partial success.