'Miss Lovely' sheds light on the untold side of Indian cinema

27 October 2012 / 3 years 12 months ago

Source: The Straits Times / AFPIf you are expecting Bollywood-style glamorous dancers and catchy music from an Indian movie, then Miss Lovely, the opening film at New York's South Asian International Film Festival, delivers a shock. Actually, there is a segment of glitter, music and a beautiful actress leading a dance line. But that is in the last seconds, following more than 100 minutes of crawling around in the violent, illegal belly of the Bollywood film industry. Miss Lovely, which has not been given a commercial release in India, is nevertheless all about Indian cinema, seen only from the viewpoint of the grifters, pornographers and schlock purveyors who deliver sex-horror movies to a huge underground audience. By the time that closing dance routine arrives - the first of the movie - it comes steeped in irony and tragedy. Presenting his movie to the festival audience last Wednesday in Manhattan, director and co-writer Ashim Ahluwalia said he has portrayed the real Bollywood, even if it is one that foreign audiences barely know. "A lot of A grade blockbuster cinema is often what people say that people are watching," he said, but "most of what people are watching is this stuff: bandit films, horror... sleazy wrestling films". The movie borrows from the documentary style, mixing in the behind-the-scenes look at the porn industry of Boogie Nights (1997) with the flavour of gritty mafia movies such as Goodfellas (1990) - all with a strong infusion of life on the margins in 1980s Mumbai. Ahluwalia chose non-actors for supporting and minor roles and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the main role as the younger of a pair of brothers trying, and failing, to make something of themselves as filmmakers. A skilful but relatively unknown actor before, Siddiqui was catapulted by Miss Lovely into becoming a star, Ahluwalia said. Ms Jenny He, programming director for the South Asian International Film Festival, which runs till next Tuesday, said Miss Lovely was chosen as the opener because "it's a demonstration of new Indian cinema". "It's indicative of what's coming out of South Asian cinema that might not get a platform," she said. The film festival's line-up includes two other film noir, Akam and Pune-52, a detective thriller that references Raymond Chandler and which, like Miss Lovely, looks at the frustrations of a small player in an overwhelming world. Akam, adapted from Malayattoor Ramakrishnan's horror novel Yakshi, also shows a man breaking down, this time an architect who has been in a car accident and left by his wife. In the documentaries category, Blood Relative throws in its own handful of grit with a look at thalassemia, an inherited disease prevalent in India, and at an activist fighting to save the lives of two children. This is the ninth year for the South Asian International Film Festival, which is partnered by American cable TV giant HBO, and it showcases not only film-makers from Asia, but also from the immigrant communities in North America and Europe.

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