Ugly: Masks off

Rahul Bhat in "Ugly"   | Photo Credit: 25dmcUgly

In Hindi there is a deceptively simple proverb, Bagal mein chhora shehar mein dhindora, which carries a deeper meaning. What you are searching for everywhere is right under your nose. Anurag Kashyap weaves the literal and metaphorical import of the adage in a thriller that tells us how quickly we degenerate in the face of desperation. How goodness evaporates when ambition, greed, jealousy and distrust seeps in and gets the better of us, unannounced.

Ten-year-old Kali goes missing from a car in a crowded market and her father Rahul (Rahul Bhat), struggling to make a name in the film industry, goes berserk. He and his trusted friend Chaitanya (Vineet Singh) rush to the police station where the in-charge Jadhav is more interested in the features of Rahul’s mobile phone than the case. The callousness of the men in uniform, sardonically exemplified by National award winning actor Girish Kulkarni, is an amusing story in itself, but right now Kali is in danger and with every passing minute you sense she is being taken away into some gutter in Mumbai’s underbelly, realistically shot by cinematographer Nikos Andritsakis.

The ball starts rolling when Kali turns out to be step-daughter of the police chief Shoumik Bose (Ronit Roy). But, again, in a different direction for her mother Shalini (Tejaswani Kolhapure) continues to arouse hatred between Rahul and Shoumik and it impedes the case. Rahul expresses his feelings while Bose keeps it ticking like a time bomb. And with Kali’s disappearance it explodes.

Genre: Thriller
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Vineet Singh, Girish Kulkarni, Surveen Chawla
Bottomline: A taut thriller that reveals what we are, what we can become.

If this ambiguity is not enough, Anurag drops other hints as well. That Rahul loves his daughter but not more than his ambition. That Chaitanya might be hiding a few secrets behind that concern. That Shalini wretched existence doesn’t really demand sympathy. Along the way, Anurag comments on how kids are becoming victims of our anxieties and aspirations. How technology often stupefies even well-intentioned police officer. But these are sidelights for the discerning to chew on. Very much like the moody background score by Ennio Morricone. Or the astute detailing with the sound proof match box type torture rooms in the middle of the city generating a disturbing visual tapestry.

Gradually, the kidnapping of Kali becomes just a cog in the wheel of Anurag’s grim universe where nobody is what he or she seems like. As he digs into the moral rot, you can almost feel the stench of decay. As if somebody is scratching the wound you feel has healed or feign that it never existed. Even if you try to run away from Ugly it will not leave you, such is the power of Anurag’s imagery. It is more like a complex Venn diagram where shades of grey overlap. And his cast performs as if they are not aware that a beast called camera is in the vicinity and is mapping their movements.

Anurag is so miserly with information that at one point you like to beseech him to part with more details but he is no mood to take a please-all route. Still all threads come together when they need to. Still it is Anurag’s least indulgent yet most visceral film. There is no escape from the ugliness that we and our films like to keep under wraps. Last week Hirani had hung a mirror in theatres, this week Anurag has put together few shards of glass. That was easier to face; this one will test the nerve.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 7:32:26 PM |

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