Sunday, January 04, 2015

Anurag Kashyap's Ugly, the problem film


Ugly is a different kind of film. It should have been a crime thriller but it refuses to be one. Instead it explores all the sub-plots with great gusto, from the police inspector who flaunts his insouciance and the investigation takes the usual as well as the unusual twists and turns. Admirers of Anurag Kashyap claim that this is indeed a virtue, that he is exploring by-alleys of the story and that is what constitutes the existential kernel of the inconsequential human life. It is the meaningless motives, words and gestures that form the gestalt of life. It is difficult to give the benefit of doubt to Anurag Kashyap's meandering plot line and invest it with non-existing virtues. The sub-plots are not merely meaningless but they lack the emotional resonance they should have if the point being made is that it is the small detail and not the big picture that makes our life what it is.
Ronit Roy's character of a taciturn police officer who deals with an alcoholic life and her former husband with a stoic forbearance that does not do much to enhance the value of the character he portrays. Tejaswini Kolhapure shows the potential of a good actress but she gets no opportunity to display it. The deglamourised make-up is not sufficient to lend the tragic halo to the character.
Ugly can at best be described as a brilliant attempt with tightly framed scenes and the actors are kept on a leash, following some sort of a Lee Strasberg or a Stanislavski school of acting. It is an interesting approach but the characters never attain the three-dimensionality that would make the viewer sit up and take note of them.
Does Ugly qualify to be film noir? It might be but it does not measure up to the noir films made in Mumbai in the 1950s, including many from the Navketan banner, starring Dev Anand. Showing dark alleys and squalid rooms and shabby lower middle class life rhythm is not in itself a sufficient to make it a noir venture. Perhaps some of these directors might want to go back and see Khawaja Ahmed Abbas'Bombai Raat Ki Baahon Mein" to understand what the dignified squalor of lower middle class life is all about.
Ugly is good film in the sense that it makes the viewer think about how it could have avoided being a bad film.

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