Subhash K Jha speaks about Ugly Aur Pagli

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By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network

A rom-com that starts with a fart and a puke joke can only get better as it progresses. Sure enough Ugly Aur Pagli brings us a kind of detoxicated sex comedy where the gender war is telescoped into a vivacious tongue-in-shriek war of words between an outwardly mismatched pair.

Suparn Verma's dialogues have a lived-in quality. Yup, two young people who are in love (but don't know it) would speak this language and probably feel some of the emotions too. If Ugly Aur Pagli looks so believably all-there, it's because of Ranvir Shorey's ability to remain normal and wimpish even when the world around him is exploding into little amusing atoms of undefined chemistry between the lead pair. But lead…hmmm. This is more like the 'misled' pair, more sinned against than 'sing' Often you wish Shorey and Sherawat wouldn't get into those sweaty pubs and dance floors which have become a staple diet of all 'hip' and 'cool' films in recent times. Why must even a deviant rom-com like this one seek a comfort zone by traveling the sing-sing-swing-swing route?

Ugly Aur Pagli has the guts to take its lead pair into avenues that are infrequent in Hindi cinema. The poor hangdog man is a bit of a timid docile lamb constantly being bullied by the sassy forever-inebriated girl who's so zonked she re-defines brassy burlesque on celluloid. Sherawat is a very limited actress and an even more limited dancer. She swings from loud boorish bullying to pseudo-sniveling in a rapid-fire of uneven emotions. She wobbles. But never falls. A lot of the scenes-some clever others are held in place by Shorey's amazing ability to make the mundane look super-interesting. Here's the ideal effortless working-class hero. An Amol Palekar with a lot of chutzpah and world-weary charm. Ranvir steps back to watch Mallika cavort at the highest shrillest pitch and makes sure she doesn't stumble over and fall.

And we aren't just talking about the character's constant state of inebriation. Ranvir holds up a lot more than his co-star's drunken ceaselessly slumping figure. The film is a series of well-crafted chance encounters between two Mumbaites who are in search of companionship. The sequences are shot with a kind of unobtrusive flamboyance (if that isn't a contradiction in terms)…Mumbai doesn't look different. But it sure looks indifferent to the feelings of the sensitive. That's the whole idea of a familiar metropolitan backdrop, right? Ideally a rom-com should converge only on the two love birds. This one takes the rule too its extreme limit. Shorey and Sherawat are so much at the centre of it all, you wonder if the rest of the world is on a sabbatical. But watch out for Ranvir's encounter with Mallika's parents (played by Tinu Anand and Sushmita Mukherjee). Though this sequence 'belongs' to the two character actors, again, it's Shorey who gives character to the ambience.

Would this sometimes-sassy, sometimes-sensitive constantly-searching rom-com have worked without Ranvir Shorey's penchant for producing pyrotechnics out of pedestrian working-class impulses? Hard to say. But then who can say what Ugly Aur Pagli has in mind?

By the end of it all we don't even know who's 'ugly' and who 'pagli'. Because 'ugly' Ranvir wears a petticoat for one sequence and cycles all the way to pagli's home. Care to solve the mystery of the man-woman equation? This film has a go at it. Albeit in swipes of talkative satire that make the film resemble an American sitcom.

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