Anurag Kashyap…the name precedes his films. In the case of Ugly, even the trailers, promotions, the Katha-Kali clip and the artwork preceded the film’s actual showcase on the silver screen. Welcome aboard Kashyap’s signature moves- unusual frame compositions, low angle shots, saturated colors, plot dissecting non-linear editing style, coarseness of language and grotesque human desire. These familiar strokes of beauty are used and exhausted within the first few shots of the film. After that Ugly unfortunately begins to turn ugly! Here’s why:
- It is impactful when Shalini (Tejaswene Kolhapure) holds the gun in her mouth in the opening scene; it is emotionally impotent when she aims the gun at her husband towards the end. 1 short monologue about her woes does not convince the audience of her mental and emotional evolution.
- The police interrogation is heart-wrenching when acted out the first two times; after that even the threat and torture becomes repetitive a.k.a. non-intimidating. Action on screen loses impact when the audience is left guessing for the cause. Why is Chaitanya (Vineet Singh) repeatedly arrested? Why is Rahul (Rahul Bhat) recurrently threatened?
- Expletives look gritty, they enhance the realism of the film, they add texture to the characters BUT what they CANNOT DO is REPLACE the dialogues. After a certain point in the film, the power of the words is seeped out of the frame.
- Characters need to be consistent if the audience has to understand and relate with them. Their choices can change but their core essence cannot be confusing, which unfortunately is the case with the pivotal character of Shaumik Bose (Ronit Roy). After the unreasonable, aggressive and merciless beating of Rahul, he plays the good cop, the fine man, the caring father- and its stops adding up for the audience.
- You cannot have contemporary, cutting-edge context with archaic, outdated content. This is with reference to the antiquated investigation processes the police employs to trace the suspects. IP address, unique identification number, credit card records, online phone calling services- they can be legitimate elementary processes but to the audience exposed to international law and crime TV series, it cannot incur intrigue and anticipation. A plot that moves on the threshold of a police investigation needs more meat than this.
- The final revelation and discovery of the kidnapped child- now could there have been a more lame and hasty attempt at providing a denouement to the central issue of the narrative after several detours and digressions? The audience is bored and exhausted with the missing child at the end of two hours; only to discover that the writer/director has forgotten to offer even as much as an intriguing twist to the tale.