Direction: Rensil D’Silva
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Sanjay Dutt, Kangna Ranaut, Neha Dhupia, Neil Bhoopalam, Randeep Hooda, Angad Bedi
Rating: 3 stars
If Bollywood were a classroom then Ungli and its team would be those backbenchers, the bunch of troublemakers who always have a trick or two up their sleeve. They are smart, but not the insufferable know-it-alls nor are they willing to play by the average formulae. Now if only they had paid a little more attention to class, they could have aced. But Ungli falls short of that, by just a wee bit.
It doesn’t take too long to realise that director Rensil D’Silva is still caught in the spell of Rang De Basanti, the 2006 cult film about a group of boys daring to teach the system a lesson. Except that the Ungli gang, that perhaps grew up watching their RDB heroes die fighting the system, is smart enough to mask themselves while going about their business. A journalist, a computer engineer, a medical intern and a mechanic moonlight as an undercover army that attempts to show the finger to the corrupt administration.
The cases they take on are relevant, their methods innovative and almost have a schoolboy naughtiness about them. Their problem-solving approach is extremely entertaining, but is it credible? We have our doubts. Because it’s one thing to curse the daylights out of rickshaw drivers refusing to take a short-distance passenger. But to actually pack him in his rickshaw, put him in a goods train and send him off to Delhi? Seriously? Can that happen? It’s stuff you wish could happen while mouthing or imagining the choicest expletives for the rickshaw driver. Which is why you totally empathise with what Ungli shows you, case after case. They take on corrupt traffic officers, pension office babus, politicians, police force and many more. But in your heart you know it’s easier said than done, the simplistic feel of it all might be a tad tough to swallow. But it helps that Ungli doesn’t try to preach, it only explores some possibilities --- real, unreal, you decide.
Let’s talk about the performances. The camaraderie among the boys is as natural as it gets. Neil Bhoopalam and Angad Bedi are aptly cast as middleclass young employees, vulnerable and firebrands at the same time. Randeep Hooda plays a journalist, who is a brooding revolutionary for the most part, but he grinds his teeth less in this film. His chemistry with his colleague Neha Dhupia is very real and never in your face. Neha, who plays a news anchor, is spot on. And she enjoys a lot more screen space than Kangna Ranaut, who’s perhaps seen for a combined ten minutes. If you can get past the irony of Sanjay Dutt in a police uniform, he manages to entertain as the only imaandar officer in the force. Emraan Hashmi’s bad boy police officer is perhaps the only less credible character in the film. He does well as the undercover cop who thinks like the culprits, but adds nothing new to the table. But oh yes, he locks lips after a long time and even captions the scene with this line: “Yeh toh mera speciality hai.” I am not making this up.
Some of Milap Zaveri’s dialogues are cheesy, in fact so much that they actually make you smirk. But they entertain. The story is fast-paced, music foot-tapping, most characters are real and the climax is clever. Sure, if you go on a fishing expedition looking for loopholes, you’re likely to have a field day. And you might be tempted to do that, because Ungli doesn’t pose as a “leave-your-brains-behind” fare. But here’s the thing. When a film attempts to take on such real everyday issues faced by the aam junta, do we want to see things fall in place and be entertained or do we want to see the reality? Or do we want a fine balance like Rang De Basanti or A Wednesday? But who’re we kidding? Those don’t happen everyday, right?
So if you are looking for a fun ride, Ungli won’t disappoint. But because of its simplistic approach, Ungli is only entertaining, not thought-provoking....