Okay Bollywood, the whole remake thing is getting REALLY old now. Seriously, when will Indian filmmakers stop running around claiming that they have an original script when they blatantly lift films scene by scene from around the world. And yes, I’m rambling! This time around, Pritish Nandy Communications brings us Ugly aur Pagli, a romantic comedy about two drastically different characters who fall in love. But it’s not the running-around-in-fields-and-singing kind of love; it’s more of a quirky take on the master-slave relationship. Unfortunately, it’s a direct remake of the Korean hit My Sassy Girl which has also been re-made in Hollywood.
You don’t even need to see the original film to believe that it’s a remake. Just look it up and you’ll realize that not only is the basic premise stolen, but several scenes are completely ripped off. Here and there the makers decided to throw in a few minor changes, add a few useless songs and call it a new film. Luckily for them, their outstanding cast and a few hilarious dialogues make the film worthwhile even if it isn’t an honest attempt.
The lovable protagonist that he is, Kabir (Ranvir Shorey) is the ultimate definition of a loser. He doesn’t have guts, he’s hardly macho, he’s failed to pass his classes four times and he doesn’t have a hope in hell with the ladies. So although it seems like he’s really good for nothing, he makes a damn good slave to the dominating Kuhu (Mallika Sherawat) who constantly demonstrates her authority over Kabir by slapping him around. Basically, he’s whipped by this beautiful but psychotic woman, and by the time he realizes it there’s no way out.
Either way, he is torn between running away from Kuhu and new found romantic feelings that he has for this pagli. The problem is, she only seems interested in making him do crazy things like walk in her heels, cycle on a seat-less bike wearing a skirt and listen to her insane script ideas. Still, he suffers through countless slaps searching for that elusive kiss.
Remake aside, the film is funny and keeps you entertained throughout. During the first half especially, there are several moments that make you laugh out loud even if it’s out of pity for Kabir. Though we can’t fully attribute this to the writers of the film, Kabir’s character is just so lovable that you can’t help but root him on as he tries to win over his insane ladylove. He’s vulnerable, meek, and incredibly weird which completely defies the definition of a conventional Bollywood hero. In that sense, this film does push the envelope because it shows that a leading male character does not always have to be dominant and charming to keep you interested. Even the heroine is unconventional as she pushes her man around and shows him who wears the pants in their relationship. But while Kabir’s character is written very well, Kuhu is always distant. Yes, this may be intended, but you never really feel for her which is a major flaw in the script.
In fact, you can actually see Mallika Sherawat making an effort to give her character some sort of depth but the fact of the matter is that her role was simply half-baked. You never really understand why Kuhu does the things she does and therefore can’t sympathize with her. But luckily enough, Mallika is absolutely perfect for the most part, especially in the comedic scenes. I’m not sure why a lot of people have written her off because despite her off-camera antics, she is a very talented actress. Her emotional scenes need some work, but even they don’t make you cringe. She brings a necessary fire to her role which a lot of actresses would not be able to.
But as usual, I have to salute Ranvir Shorey for adding yet another brilliant performance to his repertoire. No matter what role he does, he is believable down to the minute details including a simple hand movement, eyebrow raising and even a mere sniffle. After Mithya, it’s undisputed that he’s probably one of the best and most versatile actors in Hindi cinema. The way he conveys such a gamut of emotions is commendable.
The supporting cast are all average and only Sushmita Mukherjee stands out. Zeenat Aman is totally and utterly wasted which is such a shame.
You know, if director Sachin Khot and the rest of his team wanted to remake My Sassy Girl scene by scene, they should have done it properly. Instead, they add unnecessary songs just to give it mass appeal which backfires. Anu Malik’s soundtrack isn’t all that bad (nor is it great), but all the songs are downright useless. The filmmakers also throw in an overdose of rhona-dhona (crying) which takes the film way off the map. The first half is fantastic; crisply edited with great one-liners that make you feel like you’re in for a hilarious ride later on. Unfortunately, it looks like the makers wimped out big time and returned to a formulaic Bollywood conclusion, glycerine and all. Here, Ugly aur Pagli takes a wrong turn and leaves the viewer alienated and bored after they expected a genuine comedy.
Also, throughout the story, you wonder why it seems like the two main characters are almost oblivious to the world around them. Kuhu’s character is never shown away from Kabir and although this is meant to give her an air of mystery, it just leaves you frustrated because you can’t understand the motive behind her actions. Actually, even when you learn about her in further depth, it still doesn’t justify her dominating nature.
Still, a few scenes are very well done. My personal favourites were Kabir’s antics in the elevator which occurs during the first fifteen minutes of the film as well as the scene between Kabir and Kuhu at the beach. The fantasy scenes based on Kuhu’s various scripts is a big bore and one wonders if it was done better in the original. Several dialogues are also very well-written and constantly make you smile.
Director Sachin Khot falls a few steps on the ladder after a fresh Pyaar Ke Side Effects. In his first film, you could see that he’s a director with a different approach to regular stories. But since this film is hardly his own, being the obvious re-make that it is, it’s hard to judge him this time around.
So when all is said and done, the film lives up to it’s tagline of 99 slaps and 1 kiss. In a different context, there are almost 99 bad things about this film, the most obvious being the fact that it is a complete rip-off and that the second half is way too emotional. Still, there is one really great thing about Ugly aur Pagli ; it’s actually funny. I don’t mean in the goofy way that we often see in Bollywood comedies, but this one really makes you smile, if not laugh out loud. Well, the first half does at least! The reason for this is that the two protagonists really get into the skin of their character, especially Ranvir, and are the reason you want to keep watching. It’s a very fun film and although it could have been better, you don’t really mind watching the desi Ugly aur Pagli run around together doing wacky things. They aren’t quite a Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha, Jodhaa-Akbar or Veer-Zaara, but they were never supposed to be anyway!