NETFLIX FILUM: Ugly (2014)

3 out of 5 Burnt Roti's


3/5 Burnt Rotis

CW: SPOILERS, child abduction, trafficking, sexual abuse, depression, suicide and alcohol abuse.

Reading the synopsis on Netflix, I get flashbacks of Ransom, The Vanishing and other such 90s Hollywood films. I'm not going to lie, I love those films but due to Bollywood's persistent history in using a 'homage' so loosely, I came in to this film with little expectations. Probably not the best way to approach a film, but that's what you get Bollywood, damn you. 

First thing I'd like to comment on is the lead's perfect salt n pepper beard because suddenly, through no fault of my own, I was drawn in. Rahul Bhat's short, perfectly cropped hair, broad shoulders, square jaw and that beard meant I was ready to invest the next two hours into this film. 

But on a more serious note, the film quite promptly moved my mind from Rahul's beard onto a series of subject matters I was not ready for. From child abduction to trafficking, sexual abuse, depression, suicide and alcohol abuse. My first reaction was to wonder if the writer just went through a checklist, trying to be as controversial as humanely possible. It then took me a moment to consider that mental health, suicide and alcohol abuse isn't actually a rare occurrence, especially in India. It was brave to talk about it all in one film, but also at times, confusing.

Rahul Bhat and his beard. Plus Vineet Kumar Singh as the casting director 'Chaitanya'.

Rahul Bhat and his beard. Plus Vineet Kumar Singh as the casting director 'Chaitanya'.

Despite it's array of subject matters, opening minds and eyes, it tends to spit quite eagerly on female characters. All the female characters are either portrayed as bad mothers, bad decisions or bad wives. Whether sympathy is bestowed upon them for the abuse they receive is neither here nor there. Don't write about women who suffer abuse from men, while continuing to hold those very men in high regard. That's not going to win me over. 

Rahul's daughter goes missing while he leaves her in a car to go to an audition. As a failing actor, he's desperate for every audition he gets, so doesn't think twice about leaving his kid. His casting director friend arrives late, claiming his daughter isn't in his car anymore, and a scene of panicked screaming and chasing ensues. The two men turn out to be the usual suspects since abductions tend to happen by people they're related to. The police chief in charge also turns out to be the girl's step dad. Also, the estranged wife is a depressed alcoholic. Also there's a 'side piece' who's a married established pop star. Also *sighs*, I was tired one character in.

Rahul and his beard again.

Rahul and his beard again.

I will say, the acting is very impressive. One of my favourite moments was with a police officer played by Girish Kulkarni and Rahul, as he tries to explain that his daughter's been kidnapped. The back and forth is hilariously timed and equally tense; you're sitting there screaming 'THINK OF THE LITTLE GIRL' and in the same breath cackling at Girish asking if Amitabh has a fake screen name at a confused and panicked Rahul.

There are a few scenes, like this, where you're completely immersed in the conversation. One scene that took me back to Twin Peaks Season 2 Lynch-esque confusion, was in a cafe where three of our actors stare at a man holding a 'Happy Birthday' sign, awkwardly dancing and not once breaking eye contact. I straight up pressed rewind and watched it again because either I was hallucinating or that had just happened.

As a Lynch fan, you can imagine, I loved it. 

Surveen Chawla playing pop star Rakhi Malhotra

Surveen Chawla playing pop star Rakhi Malhotra

The overall tone tried to be dark and gloomy, but at times missed the point. The dark elements bring you in, but you're lost in the story, with all its twists and turns. It also introduces too many characters for you to connect to more than one.

Honestly? Rahul's beard was all that kept me watching.