Movie Review: Ungli

November 28, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

 Rensil D’Silva’s “Ungli” (The Finger), about a gang of vigilantes who set out to right the wrongs in a rotting system, seems to take off from where “Rang De Basanti” (a film he co-wrote) ended. Young, angry and frustrated, four friends form a secret organisation that aims to get rid of every single pet peeve that the Indian urban middle class has – from corrupt government officials to errant rickshaw drivers and bribe-seeking traffic policemen.

Shattered by police inaction over a near-fatal assault on a friend, Goti (Neil Bhoopalam), Kalim (Angad Bedi), Maya (Kangana Ranaut) and Abhay (Randeep Hooda) decide that the best way to counter corrupt officials is to name and shame them.

They truss up bribe-taking government officials, tattoo a politician without his knowledge and literally stuff money down the throats of traffic policemen –  thereby showing the (middle) finger to the system. All of this is duly recorded on video and sent out to the media, with a masked man warning of more such attacks if errant officials don’t mend their ways.

To catch this gang, the police infiltrate it with one of their own, Nikhil (Emraan Hashmi). But when the time comes to hand them over to the law, he is unable to decide whether he should do his duty as a policeman or sympathise with the gang’s cause.

While the premise of vigilante justice might be one of honest intentions, D’Silva sullies the cause by refusing to fill up the giant craters in his script. There are gangsters who leave wads of cash in open cupboards, reporters who don’t seem to know the basics of their job, and police officers who are actually stupid enough to take bribes in the form of bags of cash delivered to their home.

D’Silva would have us believe that by playing pranks on politicians and kidnapping police officers all our problems will be solved, but this simplistic solution would have been forgiven if the premise was executed with class. Any hope of that goes out the window when you hear the dialogue.

Milap Zaveri, the dialogue writer, seems to get more over-the-top as the film progresses. A businessman is blackmailed for watching porn with the words: “When I tell your wife, your hardware will soon turn into software”. And a person whose surname is Kale is told: “They want to meet you because you are Kale and they are Dilwale” (in reference to the famous Mehmood song).

Just like his perception of the problems that plague India, the scope of D’Silva’s film is also extremely myopic. The film’s lofty ambitions fall short, and despite commendable performances from Hooda, Hashmi and Sanjay Dutt (in one of his most restrained roles as an aging police officer), “Ungli” does nothing more than skim the surface of the real issue it is trying to get to the heart of.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and David @davidlms25 | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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