Directed by:- Anurag Kashyap
One of the things I love about Jean-Luc Godard is the influence he has exerted on the present-day filmmakers. Same can be said about the likes of Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese. Anurag Kashyap, the illegitimate child of this threesome interaction, is known for his conflicts with the establishment. Starting from the darkly ethereal Black Friday, Kashyap gained international acclaim for his Gangs of Wasseypur duology. However, he conquered over himself with this overtly tenebrous and gritty movie which with every viewing, leads me to an existential crisis.
With Ugly, Kashyap returns to the dark by-lanes of Mumbai, hiding so many things out in the open that it is too striking for us to witness, owing much to the tenebrous nature of such things, ultimately leading to disastrous situations once revealed. Ugly opens with Kolhapure, drunk to such an extent that she looks like a droopy bulldog. Tension touches the ceiling as she finds herself on the verge of suicide, only to be interrupted by her daughter from her first marriage with Bhat, an aspiring actor who has not made any developments since their divorce. The daughter is supposed to spend the day with her father, who foolishly leaves her in the car in order to meet his sordid casting director-cum-friend played by Singh. The daughter gets kidnapped, her gritty police officer stepfather takes up the case with Bhat and Singh being interrogated and tortured by the hilariously stymied Kulkarni. The plot takes so many twists and turns that we cling onto the train’s handlebar for our dear life, as it nears a dark yet sturdy wall for a crashing climax, for the film and our conscience.
As is written above, every viewing of Ugly depresses me almost beyond repair. Kashyap questions our conscience in extremely pressurizing situations in the form of a young girl’s disappearance. The characters double-cross each other in order to influence their own goals. The narrative is so jarring that we often incline to a stage where we ask ourselves that will our conscience cave in to greed and jealousy if our loved ones are snatched away from us. Kashyap, with the help of this narrative, offers a two-sided answer which shockingly seems normal with respect to our individual lifestyles and life events.
Ugly’s life resides in its screenplay and superb characterization, which is normal if Kashyap is considered India’s own Tarantino. The narrative leads us solemnly, although it switches between flashbacks, characters and the actual flow of events. Sometimes a character does something so drastic in comparison to what he/she is actually supposed to do, we find ourselves concentrating on the character so much that we are late to realize that narrative has moved ahead, disposing lots of clues, facts and revelations. The narrative itself seems falsely confused, pointing to each character as the culprit, providing ample amounts of credible alibis and history making it really difficult to trust anyone in this dark behemoth of a jigsaw puzzle. It feels as if someone leads us to the middle of a corn field at night and crawls out. We are so accustomed to the sense of being lost that we ignore the stench, and it hits us hard on our face when that someone lights the field on fire, we the audience being trapped in the middle. That’s Ugly for you.
Almost every reviewer of Ugly has pointed out that Ugly is ironically beautiful to look at, perhaps more beautiful that Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. Cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis is disturbingly beautiful, portraying Mumbai’s dark and twisted pedestal in the most glorious manner possible. Editing by Aarti Bajaj is crisp and melodious in some ways. Andritsakis and Bajaj are responsible for Ugly’s beautiful physicality, with the inclusion of pillow shots taking the movie to a new level altogether. Kashyap’s direction is at its top form here, by portraying the dark side of the characters and matching it with the stage i.e. Mumbai in a superb manner by losing them in the labyrinthesque lanes and night-clubs to fend for themselves. Kashyap uses the most mundane of places to host high-octane conversations, like the one between Roy and Bhat in the small backyard of a covert interrogation center or the one between Singh and Bhat in an interrogation cell.
Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat the conversation between Kulkarni and the duo of Bhat and Singh when the young girl goes missing. The conversation dangles on the tenterhooks as Kulkarni’s excellent performance and the extras keep on piling on the procedure with their personal anecdotes on the interruptions and their reactions to newer technology, like how to save a person’s photo to a contact. Beautifully composed and extraordinarily acted, this scene is surely among the top contenders for Kashyap’s greatest scene as a writer-director.
Ugly boasts of great performances. Kolhapure, Roy and Bhat deliver amazing performances but their presence is constantly overshadowed by the performances of Girish Kulkarni and Vineet Kumar Singh. Kulkarni and Singh provide the realistic edge from the acting department, their mannerisms, slanders and facial tics expressing more finessed emotions than needed. When we are busy doubting Singh’s actions, Kulkarni breaks in with his loud yet meek voice and lambasts the scene with his perfect diction of Marathi and equally perfect delivery of expletives. Truly sensational.
In conclusion, Ugly is sadly, a rewatchable movie. At the same time, it proves to be the gate to Kashyap’s darkly humorous world, where blood flows through the cities infested by equally dark people, guns sprouting from the trees and bullets sown in place of seeds. It is one of the very best movies of this decade and will surely rest on the upper echelons of Top 10 Movies list made on Bollywood in the near future.
Pro:- Everything except…
Con:-… Why those songs?