Ungli , a Bollywood superhero flick, arrives at the heels of an incendiary court ruling in Missouri that has caused ripples across the world. Indian citizens can now take solace in the fact that they’re not alone in their struggle; that even a developed first-world nation like the U.S. of A has a lawless police force that is protected by higher authorities as well as the media.
Rampant, unmitigated corruption in the police sector of India is a well-known social ill. However, events have a sickly strange way of aligning themselves as though a higher entity was giving us the pieces of a puzzle for us to piece them together.
The international headline-grabbing Michael Brown vs Darren Wilson case was representative of the terrifying brutality and corruption festering in American police units that the world is now aware of thanks to the circulation of startling Youtube videos across social media platforms.
They should also feel a sense of pride as their film industry has time and time again shone a light on this vice, the same cannot be said for Hollywood and the blind eye they’ve turned on their police force, shamelessly glorifying them and depicting them as paragons of virtue, upholders of great American values.
But although Ungli is a needed advocate of justice and boasts a wealth of talent, it is not a profound film, as say Rang De Basanti. Perhaps, that never was its goal or the benchmark for which it has set itself against. It’s fun and frothy Falooda as opposed to Ayurvedic turmeric milk.
Traumatized by seeing her brother in a coma as a result of a street brawl with a powerful local gang, Maya (Kangana Ranaut) and her friends (Randeep Hooda, Angad Bedi & Neil Bhoopalam) decide that they’ve had their fill of their country’s ineptness towards fighting social evils and form the “Ungli” gang. “Ungli” is Hindi for finger and true to their name, the guerilla gang give the middle finger to the usual suspects –pension withholders, corrupt ministry workers, corrupt cops and others-by delivering them just, not to mention hilarious, punishments. They soon become the nation’s superheroes and the thorn on the side of the Mumbai police department who send their senior officerACP Kale (Sanjay Dutt), a man at a moral crossroads in life, to thwart their plans.
This is not Rang De Basanti though, if anything, this movie wants you to know it’s an entertaining superhero flick on par with Fantastic Four or The Amazing Spiderman right from its comic book-inspiring opening credits. In that regard, it largely succeeds. Mumbai is given a Gotham city makeover and its heroes are just as beautiful, enigmatic and possess the same morbid sense of humor as the caped crusader and his cohorts. In fact, as I was watching the film, I was expecting Randeep Hooda to utter the famous “I am Batman” line with his sexy baritone voice. He could totally pull it off!
Meanwhile, Kangana Ranaut, is a formidable action heroine, taking a page from Halle Berry by taking a breather and enlisting in a superhero movie after completing her own Monster’s Ball, the very excellent Queen.
The film screams hedonism and celebration, it’s letdowns are few and far in between including the transparent lack of passion Emraan Hashmi invests in the film, except for when he gets to shimmy with the gorgeous Shraddha Kapoor, and the half-baked subplot where we see Randeep delving into cookie-cutter office romance. But these are minor quibbles that don’t derail the fun.
Even the songs are buoyant and snappy, recalling late 00s Black Eyed Peas hits and Punjabi MC with surprisingly poignant lyrics that resonate long after the credits roll.
Bollywood schmaltz is thankfully absent although much will be said about the “tears only dilute the whiskey” line, which will be given a deserved verbal thrashing by everyone and their grandmother.
It’s one of a few truly cringe-worthy moments in an otherwise enjoyable, innocuous romp that might also serve as a subtle reminder to Modi’s administration that the streets better be cleaned before Ungli-esque vigilantes emerge from the shadows.