Sunday, December 28, 2014


Release date (India):
December 26, 2014
Anurag Kashyap

Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Vineet Kumar Singh, Surveen Chawla, Anshikaa Shrivastava

An alcoholic mother on the verge of suicide, her wife-beating ex-husband desperate for an acting career, a child wise beyond her years and torn between divorced parents, an authoritarian spouse holding on to a college grudge – these are the primary players in director Anurag Kashyap’s latest film Ugly which turns a kidnapping case into a stinging commentary on selfishness and opportunism in human relationships.

The film is set in middle-class Mumbai, a milieu Kashyap clearly knows well. The focal point of the story is the disappearance of a little girl who was left in a car by her unthinking father when he went off to deal with a chore. Was she abducted by child traffickers? Was she taken away by someone who knows her? As the investigation proceeds, we realise that every player in this story has motivations that go beyond what they’re proclaiming to their loved ones and to law enforcers. And like that first season of the serial The Killing recently telecast on Indian TV – the case of another missing daughter – Ugly ultimately reminds us of how much harm we could do to those we love, when we are blinded even momentarily by self-interest.

Kashyap’s firm grip on the narrative loosens only towards the end of the second half, when in a bid to throw up more clever twists than were required, the film leaves too many things unsaid, too many loose ends that needed to be tied up. When did X and Y become part of the game? At what point did Z get the idea to turn a prank into a serious money-spinning enterprise? How did Z manage to convince X that A was safe?

You will understand these questions only after you watch the film. For the moment, the point here is that after a while, in trying to throw up unexpected developments that would take the audience’s breath away, the writer-director takes away instead from the film’s overall effectiveness. But Ugly’s flaws are all forgotten in that one beautifully aching climactic scene in which we finally discover what had been going on behind the scenes. That disturbing denouement rips our hearts away, reaches into our souls and demands a moment of silence as we remain glued to our seats.

Fleshing out Kashyap’s understanding of the human psyche is a striking cast put together by Mukesh Chhabra. Tejaswini Kolhapure as little Kali’s troubled mother Shalini was also in the director’s (unreleased) debut film Paanch. Here again she provides us with evidence of how much mainstream Bollywood is missing out by not roping her in more often. Their loss and ours. Rahul Bhat as Shalini’s ex is excellent. Ronit Roy is the seething volcano who plays Shalini’s second husband. In fact, the entire cast is impeccable.

Kashyap finds room for humour in the oddest of places. Ugly is grim from the start, yet features one of the most brilliantly hilarious, yet tragic and frustrating interrogation scenarios ever seen in a Hindi film thana. In one stroke, that scene throws light on the apathy of the Indian police, their ignorance, inadequate training and every other reason why the average Indian hesitates to visit police stations.

The art direction by Mayur Sharma is spot on as is Nikos Andritsakis’ intimate camerawork, creating for the audience a darkened world where sorrow and intrigue seem to lurk around every corner along with unhappy, myopic creatures.

It’s hard to let go though of the film’s big slip-up, which is the effort to be over-smart while building up suspense at a point when the human drama in the story was enough to carry it forward. Something about Ugly thus conveys the impression that more thought, care, affection and attention were devoted to writing the first half than the post-interval portion. For that reason, Ugly is nowhere close to Kashyap’s best works so far – Paanch (2003), Black Friday (2004) and the short film Pramod Bhai 23 in the omnibus Mumbai Cutting (2011). Yet, when it hits home, it hits home in a way few films have done this year. Ugly could have been a lot more. What it is as of now is worth watching all the same.   

Rating (out of five): ***

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
128 minutes

Sunday, December 21, 2014


(This article by Anna MM Vetticad was first published on January 7, 2014, on


Indian cinema clocked 100 years in 2013, but the year ahead promises more fun from Bollywood and south Indian cinema

By Anna MM Vetticad

It’s been around for a century now, but Indian cinema is more active than any 100-year-old you know.
Bollywood – the Mumbai-based, primarily-Hindi-language film industry – crossed several milestones in the year gone by.
The earlier benchmark for box-office success – net collections of Rs 100 crore ($16m) – became passé in 2013 as three films each earned double that figure within India according to trade reports: Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3 (A Blast: Part 3).
In this hero-dominated industry, the star who raked in the most money at the turnstiles in 2013 was a heroine: Deepika Padukone was an equal partner to her leading men in critically acclaimed roles in three money-spinners, Chennai ExpressYeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (This Youth Is Crazy) and Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram-leela (A Love Dance With Bullets: Ram-leela).
And independent cinema uncharacteristically made big news when the art-house English-Hindi film Ship of Theseus was marketed nationwide more heavily than any Indian indie before.
Crowd-funded production

Despite these landmarks, arguably the most ground-breaking cinematic development of last year came not from Bollywood, but from Kannada language cinema in southern India.
The Kannada film industry created history with its first crowd-funded production, Lucia, the story of a cinema theatre attendant addicted to a mind-altering drug.
Writer-director Pawan Kumar approached the public through a blog post to raise approximately Rs 50 lakh ($81,000) to make the film.
India's independent films (those not made by production majors, and most often on a low budget) are usually confined to the festival circuit and are rarely released in mainstream theatres.
Lucia bucked this trend, and by the end of its 105-day theatrical run across India, the film's net collections had touched Rs 1.6 crore ($259,000), which is unprecedented for an Indian indie.
Kumar is now planning his next independent project while preparing to direct the Hindi remake of Lucia for Fox Star India with a budget “minimum 10 times higher than the original”.
Southern cinema sets trends
The Telugu film industry of Andhra Pradesh state and the cinema of Tamil Nadu rival Bollywood in scale and volume, but are rarely given their due by the Indian national media.
In 2014, though, Bollywood is likely to get stiff competition for the national spotlight from 63-year-old Tamil film icon Rajinikanth who stars in Kochadaiiyaan, the first Indian film ever to use 3D performance capture technology.
This animation technique – in which characters are modelled on live actors who are performing – has been used most extensively so far by Hollywood in Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin.
From among the 1,000-plus films that India produces every year, the emotional high point of 2014 too is likely to come from southern India.
Manam (We) will star three generations of Telugu cinema’s legendary Akkineni family of actors: 90-year-old Akkineni Nageswara Rao, his son Nagarjuna (now in his 50s) and grandson, the 20-something Naga Chaitanya.
Khan magic
Bollywood’s longest-reigning superstars – Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan – are headed for major milestones in the coming months.
Salman completes 25 years as a leading man in Hindi films this year.
His silver jubilee year will be marked by the release of Jai Ho (Let There Be Victory, a remake of the Telugu film Stalin) coming to theatres on January 24, Kick (another remake of a Telugu film) which is likely to be out in July, and an untitled film he is producing.
Aamir will star in P.K. helmed by Rajkumar Hirani who earlier directed him in the record-breaking smash hit 3 Idiots.
Shah Rukh too is reuniting with a tried-and-tested team for his next film: Happy New Year to be directed by Farah Khan and co-starring Deepika with whom he earlier created box-office magic in Om Shanti Om.
The Khans’ most serious competition from the new generation, Ranbir Kapoor has a string of films coming up including Bombay Velvet with auteur Anurag Kashyap and Jagga Jasoos (Detective Jagga) directed by Anurag Basu with whom he delivered the 2012 hit Barfi.

Bollywood’s leading ladies

The year 2014 could be a watershed year for heroines depending particularly on the fate of two Bollywood films starring Madhuri Dixit-Nene.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s production Dedh Ishqiya (One-and-a-half times Love) in January will mark the return of the former marquee queen as a leading lady after a seven-year gap.
This will be followed in March by Gulaab Gang (The Rose Gang), a film inspired by the true story of a group of women vigilantes who fight social injustice in northern India.
If either makes good money, it could marginally influence the way the industry views the box-office potential of female stars.
After a couple of insubstantial roles in big-budget films in 2013, National award-winning actress Priyanka Chopra will headline the biopic of Olympian boxer MC Mary Kom that’s being released in July.

Another National award winner Vidya Balan – that rare female Bollywood star who is acknowledged by the industry as a box-office draw in her own right – will be seen in February in the romantic comedy Shaadi ke Side Effects (The Side Effects of Marriage).
Actress Shilpa Shetty will make her debut as a producer with Dishkiyaaon this year.
Of remakes and adaptions
In recent years Bollywood has churned out unimaginative remakes of Telugu and Tamil blockbusters, and struck the financial bull’s eye with most of them.

In 2014, box-office Midas and director AR Murugadoss will remake his Tamil hit Thuppakki (The Gun) in Hindi with Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha.
Among the few to reverse the trend, Bollywood major Yash Raj Films will release the Tamil and Telugu versions of its critically and commercially successful Hindi film Band Baaja Baaraat (Bands, Music and Wedding Revelry) on February 7. Both are called Aaha Kalyanam (Wow! Wedding!).
Bollywood actor and fashion icon Sonam Kapoor is reprising Rekha’s iconic role in a retelling of legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Hindi film Khubsoorat (Beautiful).
Contemporary Bollywood has been accused of rarely adapting literary works.
Some of that criticism will be countered this December with the release of Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshi.
This period thriller stars young heartthrob Sushant Singh Rajput as the sleuth of the title created by Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay.
Director Abhishek Kapoor is adapting Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations as Fitoor (Obsessive Passion) starring Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapoor.
And contemporary Indian English bestseller Chetan Bhagat’s novel Two States is being made into a film of the same name starring newcomers Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor.
(Anna MM Vetticad is a Delhi-based journalist, teacher and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. Follow her on Twitter @annavetticad.)

Photograph courtesy: Raindrop Media