'Miss Lovely' flops at Cannes


Despite all the Cannes-hype, Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘Miss Lovely’ bombed after its screening there, leaving critics and audiences rather bored

It was touted to be the new wave of Indian cinema, hyped in the Indian media for its inclusion at Cannes (the non-competitive category, mind you). However, the reality at the film’s screening was very different from all the hype surrounding it. ‘Miss Lovely’ by ad filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia – a film that promised to be an enticing insight into the C-grade film industry in Mumbai’s northern suburbs– flopped badly at its screening, leaving audiences dazed, confused and terminally bored through its rather dull 1hr-55 min length. The wires reported that it drew a ‘muted reception’, but critics have been harsher; some thought the film looked incomplete, while others found its meandering non-plot a leading cause of its failure to win over audiences or critics. Others felt that too arty an approach sucked the life out of a potentially juicy subject.

Hollywood Reporter’s review went like this:
“On paper, the plot of Miss Lovely sounds like a vibrant behind-the-scenes retro-thriller in the Scorsese, De Palma or Paul Thomas Anderson tradition. But the finished article is a very different animal, chiefly because Ahluwalia chooses to tell a potentially lurid story in such a listless and elliptical manner. Dialogue is very spare, with long scenes drifting along wordlessly and aimlessly. The performances are competent, but ill-served by sketchy and cryptic characterization. A queasy ambient score of industrial drones, clanks and rumbles seeps into every frame, amplifying the mood of creeping unease. Partly driven by his concerns that Bollywood-dominated India is the “laughing stock” of global cinema, Ahluwalia has striven for a very self-consciously arty aesthetic here...but it also drains a rich story of narrative momentum and emotional punch. Miss Lovely sets out to prove that Indian cinema can be as rambling, pretentious and frustratingly opaque as a European art movie. It succeeds rather too well.”

Sunil Doshi from LiveMint.com was even more direct in his exasperation:
“I thought it looked incomplete with respect to the scan of the print, editing and sound work. The film is laboriously long and needs to be re-edited and packaged well before its release, for sure.”

Dan Fainaru of Screen International, a film trade weekly magazine that is used by more than 34,000 film executives in more than 70 countries, had this to say:
“It may well put off both regular movie audiences expecting a more conventional approach and the regular customers of the (C-grade) genre, who demand a lot more titillation, sex, violence and gore than Ahluwalia’s film is ready to provide. Ahluwalia has a hard time telling a story of any kind, even as unoriginal as this one is, establishing anything more than clichéd characters or following any kind of sequence continuity. His film gallops ahead regardless of any need for clarity, his shots tied up together in the kind of elliptic editing that may be just too much of an effort to keep up with. One-dimensional performances are not much help either.”

Finally, Aniruddha Guha’s report from DNA proved yet again that India has indeed a long way to go with finding its (self-appointed) Wong Kar-Wais:
“Even Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s bravura performance…can’t stop Miss Lovely from meandering along, before somewhat getting its act together in the end. ‘We have a certain perception of Indian cinema. I would request all of you to watch my film with a fresh mind, without any preconceived notions,’ director Ashim Ahluwalia told the audience before the film began at the Salle Debussy, where Miss Lovely was screened. For many in the crowd, though, the film was a letdown…You find yourself paying more attention to the art design than what the film really has to offer.”