By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Fugly”; Cast: Jimmy Sheirgill, Mohit Marwah, Kiara Advani, Vijendra Singh, Arfi Lamba; Director: Kabir Sadanand: Rating: ****
Let’s first get the picture right. Contrary to what the trailers and promotional images suggest, “Fugly” is not a ‘Fukrey’-friendly flick about four friends having a ball in life. This film means business.
Light on top and substantial underneath, this is the “Rang De Basanti” of the post-Narendra Modi era. Thoughtful and at times brilliant, it tells us a great deal about the state of a culture and people searching for reasons to keep the spirit of nationalism alive as self-serving corruption grows all around.
“Fugly” is the cinema of social awakening. It tackles issues such as gay prostitution, khaki-clad fascism and the excess of television journalism, perhaps cramming in too many social issues in order to make the subject relevant and resonant. And yet nowhere does the director seem to bite into more than he can chew.
In one of the many striking sequences that coil themselves around the four young lives with impetuous intensity, we see random images of people on the city streets misbehaving mostly with women.
Milind Joga’s camera seems to move concernedly through the streets of Delhi and Gurgaon in search of answers for the moral bankruptcy around us.
This then, is the portrait of a nation grappling with damnation as seen through the eyes of four impetuous youngsters. The actors get it right from the word go. Right away, let’s applaud the director for giving us four bright newcomers, two of whom are natural born stars.
I came away with many memorable scenes in the film. One in particular where Devi’s (Kiara Advani) three male friends try to wash the abusive word ‘bitch’ off her residential door was deeply moving.
Sadanand accompanies the quartet of protagonists’ journey with wallops of whimsy and irony. He could have avoided making light of the situation when there is no room for levity in the narration.
The film frequently suffers from mood swings.
One minute we see the protagonists trapped in an eerie cat-and-mouse game with the diabolic cop Chautala (Jimmy Sheirgill, suitably sinister and characteristically outstanding). The next minute we see Vijender Singh’s character of a pampered and arrogant son of a Haryanvi politician doing a comic cat-and-mouse skit with income-tax officers, who have come to raid his father’s premises.
Erratic and over emphatic at times, what works for the narrative is its supremely active heart and soul. The large chunk of the film when Devi gets sexually humiliated by the neighbourhood grocer and her friends’ outrage leading to unforeseen tragedy, is exceptionally even in tone and sure handed in execution.
But then, various debauched politicians and corrupt elements show up to mess up our protagonists’ lives. And with them comes irrelevant diversions like an item number performed by Sana Saeed.
Everyone including the bit actor Rajveer Ahuja, who plays Jimmy’s subordinate, and Praveen Singh Sisodia as the lecherous grocer, is effective and potent. So is the film, if you ask me.
Sadanand keeps the proceedings believable and aesthetic.
The ending will shock and move audiences.
Two of the actors Mohit Marwah and Kiara Advani are star material. Their on screen relationship remains undefined, unpunctuated by the mandatory item song.
This film possesses a very rare virtue. A conscience.