It’s very rare that I go into a theatre without the least expectations and come out smiling. Fugly is one of those rare moments.
Kabir Sadanand-directed Fugly — I’d wondered how the producers got the censors to agree to the title, but it becomes clear as you watch the film — is a story of four young friends who have dreams of starting a trekkers’ camp in the Himalayas and winning the world boxing championship. But, destiny has something else in store for them.
The film begins with a young man — Dev (Mohit Marwah) — driving up to India Gate in New Delhi on a normal weekday morning and setting himself ablaze in the presence of hundreds. The self immolation, he describes to enquiring media at one of the city’s hospitals, was “for redemption”.
Taking on Cheeni (Anshuman Jha), a lecherous rave party organiser, at a dance party under the headlights of gaily coloured cross-country trucks was easy for Dev, Devi (Kiara Advani), Aditya (Arfi Lamba) and Gaurav (Olympic boxing champion Vijender Singh), Dev explains. Real trouble starts when they get on the wrong side of Inspector R.S. Chautala (Jimmy Shergill).
When Nanu, a small shop owner, fondles Devi’s butt, she justifiably slaps him. But he maligns her instead in front of his customers, claiming she made the pass. Of course, her casual, low-slung harem parents and tied-up, mid-riff baring shirt didn’t help Devi. A frustrated Devi vents in front of her friends who decide to avenge her honour. But an unrepentant Nanu threatens the group, which leads them to “take him on a drive” in the boot of their car. And they cross paths with Chautala.
The inebriated Chautala, slighted at Gaurav’s boast regarding his minister father, decides to “teach them a lesson”, even though he is Gaurav’s family’s henchman. Killing Nanu, he frames and blackmails them for the murder.
It’s from here that things turn from ugly to Fugly. To pay off Chautala, Dev, Devi, Aditya and Gaurav decide to host a rave party with one of Cheeni’s minions. But he double crosses them and Chautala comes to their rescue. Seeing all the money, the greedy policeman forces them into the lucrative business. Troubled by their conscience, the four friends try all means to get out of his trap, but to no avail. They get drawn deeper into the business until Chautala frames them.
Dev finds a solution: people don’t want to hear the truth unless it’s coming from a dying man. Hence, the self immolation.
Fugly ably touches on many social issues — from women’s security to the steadily growing trend of drug, alcohol and sexual use/abuse in the higher echelons of society, to corruption in the judicial and political system. The film has been cast well too, though Singh may need a few more lessons to hone his acting skills — hey, he’s a boxer not actor, let’s cut him some slack. Each of them — Marwah, Singh, Advani — are well-suited for their characters of carefree, young souls. Slumdog Millionaire actor Lamba is convincing as the constantly scared Aditya. But it’s the underrated Shergill who steals the show as Chautala.
The film’s songs will remain popular on radio stations and dance parties. Yo Yo Honey Singh, along with Prashant Vadhyar and Raftaar & Badshah, have a musical hit on their hands.
However, I didn’t quite understand Devi’s reference to herself as a ‘Delhi Girl’. If it means shoving an elbow into the side of an unnecessarily “excited” male co-passenger trying to rub against her in a DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus or handing a set of bangles to a young man sitting on a ladies-only seat while an old woman with a bent back stands, being a Delhi girl myself, I totally relate to it. I’ve done it all. I’m by no standards a prude, but if it refers to walking in the streets with dangerously low waistlines and flimsy shorts paired with just-there tank tops and not expecting at least raucous whistles, I would appreciate if someone explains that tag to me.