Ashim Ahluwalia's debut feature, Miss Lovely, will open with 400 prints in Indian theatres this week after being in the cans for about two years. Starring Nawazuddin Siddique and Anil George, Miss Lovely premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in its prestigious A Certain Regard.
Ahluwalia -- who has some acclaimed documentaries to his credit -- first visualised Miss Lovely as a non-fiction project, before he changed tracks to develop it into a stylised drama.
Set in the Bombay of the 1980s and in the dark and murky world of semi-criminal pornography industry, Miss Lovely is essentially the story of two brothers, Sonu (Siddiqui, who is not half as good as he was in Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur shown at Cannes the same year, though outside the official selections) and Vicky (George).
They churn out blue films by sexually exploiting young women seeking stardom. Playing pals with both gangsters and cops, the brothers dream big and when Sonu meets Pinky (Niharika Singh), he knows that she is his heroine for Miss Lovely, a fiction feature he hopes to make and which may just about be the ticket out of his grubby world.
Perhaps, driven by his concern that Bollywood-dominated Indian cinema is laughed at, Ahluwalia has produced an aesthetically pleasing work all right.
In fact, the director told the media at Cannes: "The primary thing I want viewers at Cannes to take away is that Indian cinema is not all Bollywood. That's the misconception. My work wants to break that perception that we are under-educated about cinema.
Some said his work resembled one of Gus Van Sant, and Christian Jeune, Festival's deputy general delegate, told me that he had picked Miss Lovely, because he saw "a great potential in it". (Cannes has been the discovering field of hidden talent.)
True, the movie's style is bold, the story quite novel, and it is on par with European art cinema. Nonetheless, characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, the emotional punch could have been stronger, and the pace quicker.