Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie Review: Ungli

A lot of stupid stuff happens in Rensil D’Silva’s Ungli. A vigilante group is formed in Mumbai, and they break maximum security as if its child’s play. An undercover cop who is sent to infiltrate the gang and haul them to prison is immediately impressed by their actions and decides to switch sides. Another cop, who is desperate to catch these criminals, also decides to switch sides five minutes after delivering a ten-minute sermon on the sanctity of police ki vardi.

All of that actually works very well during the first half when the film plays out like a comedy. Nothing is taken seriously. The gang, comprised of Reporter Abhay (Randeep Hooda), Nurse/Hospital intern/Receptionist lady Maya (Kangana Ranaut), Software Engineer Goti (Neil Bhoopalam) and Oak Tree Groot (Angad Bedi) goes about their job at a breakneck pace, nabbing corrupt government officials and strapping bombs to them, kidnapping corrupt cops and making them eat money, and tattooing the middle finger on the body of a corrupt politician. It’s rather fun because we get to see a bunch of yuppies doing cheekily evil stuff to people who deserve ridicule. It also works because it is sharply directed and edited, and there’s not a dull moment in sight to think about the holes in the logic. Even Emraan Hashmi’s serial smooching gimmick is parodied rather well.

Unfortunately, right after the interval point the Second Half Voodoo Hex that’s been biting Bollywood in the posterior since eons descends upon the film with vengeance. To say that the film goes downhill would be giving it credit. All of the comedy in the first half is replaced by unintentional hilarity, because suddenly everyone decides to become serious. It’s when the film gives you the chance to realize how ridiculous it is. The film also makes a genuine attempt to sell the ludicrous actions of the Ungli Gang as legit solutions to change the system. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, a romantic track kicks in coupled with a truly horrendous backstory for the Ungli gang. There is a ton of awfully handled melodrama as well, just to make sure your palm never detaches from your face.

The already silly film somehow manages to become even sillier in the second half. The Ungli Gang, which takes a ton of effort to remain anonymous, recruits a new member without doing any background check. When the dude eventually betrays them they cry about trusting him as their friend, and hilariously, they let him go. Not to mention the dialogue – we get choice lines like ‘rone se koi fayda nahi, aansun se whiskey dilute ho jaati hai’.

It doesn’t help that the acting is guffaw inducing, mostly because the characters are crummy. While Randeep tries his best to squeeze out sincerity in hammy situations, we have Kangana standing around looking clueless, even disappearing from the film a few times. Neil Bhoopalam, who is a decent talent on stage is given awful material to work with. The grand attraction of this cast is Angad Bedi – who exudes the screen presence of Dino Morea, the charm of Fardeen Khan and the comic timing of Uday Chopra. Every syllable he delivers is a Googly that even his father Bishan Singh couldn’t conjure. The less said about Sanjay Dutt the better – the fact that he plays an overtly sincere cop is ironic enough casting to begin with. Neha Dhupia plays a reporter who can’t recognize her colleague Randeep Hooda when he wears a small Ungli Gang mask in her bed, and then can’t figure out that Hooda is the member of the gang when he gives her information on the gang. D’Silva’s previous film Kurbaan had FBI’s most wanted criminal stabbing people in a packed bar and getting away. The plot holes in Ungli make that movie seem like a watertight masterpiece.

Ungli is a wasted opportunity, because it had all the tools for a fun comedy thriller. Perhaps next time D’Silva will deign to shoehorn melodrama when the comedy is working so well. The good thing about Ungli is it runs just shy of two hours, so even if you dislike the film you’ll forget it the moment you reach home in time for dinner. The final shot of the movie is a giant hand showing you the middle finger, so whether you take that as a hint or not is left to you.

(First published in Firstpost)

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