Ugly (2014) Movie Review: Dark, Intense and Relevant, Very Relevant

I was quite happy when I got an opportunity to watch Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly late last year. Post the screening at Cannes earlier in the year (2013) the feedback I had received about the film was not all that great. But then I heard that the film had been re-edited, something which I felt could be a positive move for the film. I have not seen the initial version, but the revised cut which I saw impressed me immensely and I was sure that it would be one of the best Hindi films of the year. Unfortunately Ugly did not make it to theatres in 2013 but I was sure that irrespective of when the theatrical release happens, my feeling about the film would remain the same. Now that I have re-visited the film I am delighted to say that my intuition has come right. Ugly worked for me earlier and it worked for me even now, more on that in a while.

Ugly Poster 4It’s been a while that I’ve been feeling that one should never be in a relationship, marriage or otherwise until you are sure that you really want to be in it. Most Indians have this feeling that its ok let’s take it as it comes, things will fall in place one day or the other, after all haven’t people all around us been doing the same? And then you wait constantly for the day when things fall in place, but with the passage of time you feel that the day is never coming along. A whole sense of helplessness creeps in, some people bail out, some remain stuck and suffer, some try to search for an alternate path. Even those who bail out do not always find the escape hatch that easily. When it’s a relationship that involves two adults who have already been unsure of the whole thing then why would you even want to give birth to a child and make it worse for yourselves and begin the child’s life with a lot of gloom?

Even today I see people all around me who believe that when you are in a difficult relationship then go in for a child as it would automatically bring things back to normal, even bringing joy and success along. To add to it we have our ‘well-wishers’ who strongly advise us how having a child in such a situation is so much the right thing to do. Common sense would always indicate the reverse, but do we apply it when the situation demands or give in just because we feel “woh humse behtar jaante hain”? If you are wondering whether I have lost it considering this is supposed to be a film review, let me assure you that everything is fine, it’s just that a film like Ugly makes you introspect, introspect a lot on these aspects. Unless you live in Siberia or really don’t care for Hindi/Indian Cinema (in either of the 2 cases I doubt you would be reading this anyways 🙂 ) I am sure you have an idea of what the film is all about. Ugly is a tale which begins on a Saturday and ends the following Saturday, in the ensuing period the lives of various characters, connected directly or indirectly get intertwined as the tale unfolds and culminates eventually.

Rahul Kapoor/Varshney (Rahul Bhat) is a struggling actor, still on the lookout for his elusive break which will catapult him to stardom. Rahul’s marriage to Shalini (Tejaswini Kolhapure) had failed and she is now married to Shoumik Bose (Ronit Roy), a top cop. Incidentally Rahul, Shalini and Shoumik are all college mates. Rahul and Shalini have a daughter, Kali (Anshika Shrivastava) who lives with Shalini and meets Rahul every Saturday. On one such Saturday when Rahul is with Kali, he receives a call from Chaitanya Mishra (Vineet Kumar Singh) a casting director and his long standing friend to pick up material to prepare for an audition. Rahul leaves behind a reluctant Kali in his car while he goes to meet Chaitanya. On finding Kali missing both Rahul and Chaitanya frantically start searching for her in the street when Chaitanya finds Kali’s mobile phone in the hands of a toy seller. While being chased by Rahul and Chaitanya, the man Shrilal (Murari Kumar) however dies in an accident. Rahul and Chaitanya see no better option apart from going to the local police station to file a complaint.

Ugly Still 1Inspector Jadhav (Girish Kulkarni) initially doesn’t treat the issue seriously but on knowing that Kali is the step daughter of the police chief, he informs Shoumik who now uses this opportunity to settle an old score with Rahul. What happens from thereon is conveyed to us in Anurag Kashyap’s characteristic style. Ugly is a film which doesn’t waste any time in getting to the premise, there is no unnecessary character build up and as the tale unravels we are literally transported into the middle of the proceedings. In fact in the first 15 minutes itself there is so much conveyed that you are hooked right away. Aarti Bajaj’s editing once again helps the film tremendously as she understands Anurag’s vision and requirement and the film’s pace matches the urgency of the narrative, hence making the film quite gripping but taking care not to look hurried. Anurag certainly has a penchant for chase sequences and the chases in Black Friday and Gangs of Wasseypur demonstrate that. Here too there is a chase but unfortunately it ends just when we start enjoying it.

Despite the tale being grim and very serious, there is quite a bit of humour on display mainly in the form of dialogues which again appear natural and not forced. The entire police station sequence in the start when Rahul and Chaitanya come over to complain of Kali being missing bears testimony to it as Jadhav and his team go about asking a whole lot of questions which depict dry humour. The characters are all flawed; each and every one of them. Every time you almost start feeling for a character Anurag makes sure to bring in a different dimension to the character bringing things back to square. Nikos Andritsakis who has already proved his effectiveness as DOP with films like LSD and Shanghai once again does a great job here. Take the scene where Siddhanth (Siddhanth Kapoor) appearing spaced out and probably so high that he’s on a trance of sorts, enjoying the feel of money all around him but oblivious to the cops who have barged in on him. Or the numerous dark interior shots, all adding to the realistic feel of the film.

Ugly Still 2Brian McOmber’s BGM is effective and considering the nature of the film it is but natural that there is no scope for songs to appear in the conventional format, though G.V.Prakash Kumar has composed a few tracks for the film. The performances are all first rate to say the least and Mukesh Chhabra’s casting choices couldn’t have been better as seen by the output eventually. Tejaswini Kolhapure after a long hiatus gets a role where she has given it her all. As Shalini she more than packs a punch as the bored alcoholic wife with a strong suicidal tendency. Vineet Kumar Singh as Chaitanya the casting director who is not as ‘seedha saadha’ as he appears is a great revelation (in contrast to his previous work) and carries off the complex role quite well. Siddhanth Kapoor as the mean self-centred youngster, Surveen Chawla as Rakhi Malhotra the item girl with an agenda on her own, Madhavi Singh and late Abir Goswami as cops working with Ronit Roy are all good choices as well.

Ugly Poster 3Ronit Roy is not one to miss out on a good opportunity and as the police chief Shoumik Bose he once again doesn’t disappoint. His character while on the surface appears primarily as a sincere and upright cop has more shades to himself which we are exposed to in the course of the film. Rahul Bhat (no relation to Mahesh Bhatt’s son 🙂 ) who was last seen on the big screen in Nayee Padosan (2003) makes a wonderful comeback as Rahul the actor who doesn’t mind taking the plunge in marrying his college sweetheart Shalini against her family’s opposition but then is only bothered about his acting career, even at the cost of being a bad husband and father. And a big round of applause to Girish Kulkarni who is splendid as Inspector Jadhav, someone who provides the required humour in the film in a completely wonderful fashion. One of the best actor-writers in Marathi Cinema these days, Girish leaves a great impact on us in his entry to Hindi Cinema with Ugly.

Ultimately Ugly is a triumph in many ways for Anurag Kashyap and the people who have backed the film (Phantom Films and DAR Motion Pictures), as it’s not a film that may appeal to one and all. This is easily a film that sees Anurag going back to his Black Friday days and there’s hardly anything indulgent about Ugly. The film makes you ponder over the subject, whether you are a parent or not. And in case you are a parent then don’t be surprised if you ask yourself how good a parent you are after watching the film. Yes Ugly is a dark film and even if you have been able to guess the eventual outcome, I am sure it will still hit you hard as it unfolds. But Ugly is not just a dark thriller (and a fine one at that), it tells us a tale that’s very relevant to our times and surroundings.

For a year that’s been largely disappointing for Hindi Cinema it’s a welcome relief to see 2014 come to a close with this fine film. Call yourself a serious film buff? Then don’t wait, just go and watch Ugly this weekend.

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14 thoughts on “Ugly (2014) Movie Review: Dark, Intense and Relevant, Very Relevant

  1. Loved how personal the review is! Hope the film is made with as much heart as you have put in this review. I was quite left quite unaffected by GOW. Anurag Kashyap going back to Black Friday days would certainly wake up the fanboy in me who has been in a slumber for a while now.

  2. Nice review Sethu. Spoiler: If I am not mistaken then besides the scene of Kali missing-chase sequence and the last scene, everything else seemed like a Red Herring, right?

      • Actually because of those Red Herrings I felt cheated. Sure I was surprised about the apathy from usual suspects but the whole driving force of search for Kali became kind of pointless. Moreover, the ending seemed implausible given that the girl was found (spoiler) in the side car of a scooter parked right where she was kidnapped and nobody saw her for a week, really? It seemed like the ratio of the amount of thought put into writing the ending compared to the amount of thought put into writing the Red Herrings was abnormally low. A good thriller like Kaun works because nearly every single scene has a meaning towards the twist ending. Ugly is nowhere close.

        But kudos to AK for pushing the envelope of profanity through censor board.

      • Jateen you do have a point but sometimes it just happens that we don’t look for stuff @ places
        which we feel would be too obvious.Which is also why the lady cop tells Shoumik (Ronit Roy) that
        “hum Kali ko bacha sakte they”.

  3. This is a very dumb decision by Anurag to release it just a week after PK when the whole country is engulfed by this PK wave. I am not sure what prompted them to take this suicidal decision. This one could have worked better if it were released when there was some quite intermittent period between biggies.

    B Velvet got postponed coz of PK. Now UGLY will suffer coz of PK. It looks like one AK is the bane of another AK.

    The release strategy is so pathetic that there is not a SINGLE show in the UNITED STATES – makes sense since PK is running to packed houses even in the 2nd week here. I had been waiting very eagerly for this but looks like again, I have to catch it via torrents.

  4. Sethu ko achcha laga, to hum ko bhi achcha lagega

    Spot on about people jumping into marriages because of “reaching right age”, etc. Many people who dont think that way, marry because they are afraid of being lonely, the whole life

    And having kids does not make it easy, it makes it difficult. If a couple wants to separate, they cannot because they both want the kid to live with them. Add to that, the financial trouble of alimony, and it makes life miserable and hellish. Speaking from experience 🙂

  5. An amazing piece of Art with some sore thumbs;….

    1. Jewellery shop robbery – does not take the character’s/story any further…or to a different level
    2. Stench was not noticed for such a long time???
    3. The misfired shot on the cop…

    In all a psychological thriller where the stereotype’s…. are broken ..to prove a point. personally i feel during the Climax the guy should not have muttered ‘baccha Roy ke paas hai tune hi bola tha na…..An antithesis of Sooraj B movies where almost all of the character’s are very Clean/Positive/Best of character’s it is also very unlikely that in a Situation you will have all involved extremely… dark and ugly…….

  6. The climax ruined the impact. It was all ‘ugly’ enough in a good way until then. I thoroughly enjoyed everything leading up to that moment. But the climax was a rushed job, and should have better constructed. This one made the whole investigation look like a comedy of sorts.

  7. Had so many issues with the movie.

    The protagonist goes into the jewellery store without any masks, knowing fully well about cameras.

    Casting director calling them for ransom, as if he knew that the rich father would cough up with the money

    The dead body was there for 8 days in the open. Would not the passersby alert the police the first day itself.

    Why would the father with his cohorts run away with the money, with the daughter yet unfound?

    While the whole movie had this “Crime Patrol” episode look, so many things did not seem plausible at all

    • @ Kelpha- I can understand your issues with the movie,lemme see if I have some answers 🙂

      1. In the state of mind that Rahul was he couldn’t really have bothered about cameras in the store.
      Also he had only done the observation of some jewellery stores from outside,quite possible he
      was clueless about cameras till he entered the store.
      2. Chaitanya (the casting director) had a score to settle with Shoumik (Ronit Roy) & so he was just
      trying it for a lark,even if he didn’t get the money he had nothing much to lose (of course not if
      he got caught).
      3. Well I’m assuming the stench would have come in after day 3 or 4 but then it was a busy street & no one
      really was looking out for the girl there unlike in the end when you were really focused on the girl &
      hence can feel the stench easily-I agree this is a weak argument, can’t think of anything better now 🙂
      4. Rahul lost it towards the end,he felt he was nowhere close to getting Kali back,so felt its better to let
      Shoumik handle all the shit & maybe he can just go away from there.

      • 3. First of all was the girl dead when she was hidden there. Don’t seem so as it must have been a case of making her subconscious. And if that’s the case then another major flaw is she didn’t try to survive after gaining consciousness…

  8. My views of the film are solely based on a second view and how I felt therein… Was a bit impressive for the first time round but dipped big time on the second view..

    And that’s largely because of Kashyap’s indulgences and his inability to hold me or feel for any of his characters… Yes there are quirky characters, people with a lot of grey shades but you lose the plot when you are not bothered about the child…

    Though understandably one of the better films to come out from 2014, this one may not at all stand the test of times that’s for sure…

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