Ungli review: Emraan Hashmi's comedy fails to tickle the funny bone
Ungli is a wasted opportunity, because it had all the tools for a fun comedy thriller. But the tools were not used properly.
A lot of stupid stuff happens in Rensil D’Silva’s Ungli. A vigilante group is formed in Mumbai and they break maximum security as if it's child’s play. An undercover cop is sent to infiltrate the gang and haul them to prison, but is immediately so impressed by their actions that he decides to switch sides. Another cop, who is desperate to catch these criminals, also decides to switch sides five minutes after delivering a ten-minute sermon on the sanctity of police ki vardi.
All this actually works very well during the first half when the film plays out like a comedy. Nothing is taken seriously. The gang — comprised of crime reporter Abhay (Randeep Hooda), hospital intern/receptionist Maya (Kangana Ranaut), software engineer Goti (Neil Bhoopalam) and Oak Tree Groot (Angad Bedi) — goes about its job at a breakneck pace, nabbing corrupt government officials and strapping fake bombs to them, kidnapping corrupt cops and making them eat money and tattooing the middle finger on the body of a corrupt politician. It’s rather fun because we get to see a bunch of yuppies doing cheekily evil stuff to people who deserve ridicule. It also works because Ungli is sharply directed and edited, and there’s not a dull moment to think about the holes in the logic. Even Emraan Hashmi’s serial smooching gimmick is parodied rather well.
Unfortunately, right after the interval, the Second Half Voodoo Hex that’s sunk its teeth into Bollywood’s posterior because theatres want us to buy popcorn and samosas, descends upon the film with vengeance. To say that the film goes downhill would be giving it credit. The Ungli Gang, which takes a ton of effort to remain anonymous, recruits a new member without doing any background check. When the dude eventually betrays them, they cry about trusting him as their friend, and hilariously, let him go. Not to mention the dialogue – we get choice lines like, “Roney se koi fayda nahi, aansun se sirf whiskey dilute ho jaati hai.”
All of the comedy in the first half is replaced by unintentional hilarity, because suddenly everyone decides to become earnest. Now Ungli would have you take it seriously and instead, you realize how ridiculous it is. The film makes a genuine attempt to sell the ludicrous actions of the Ungli Gang as legit solutions to change the system. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, a romantic track kicks in coupled with a truly horrendous backstory for the Ungli gang. There is a ton of awfully handled melodrama as well, just to make sure your palm never detaches from your face.
It doesn’t help that the acting is guffaw-inducing, mostly because the characters are crummy. While Hooda tries his best to squeeze out sincerity in hammy situations, we have Ranaut standing around looking clueless and then disappearing from the film. Neil Bhoopalam, who is a decent talent on stage, is given awful material to work with. The grand attraction of this cast is Angad Bedi, who exudes the screen presence of Dino Morea, the charm of Fardeen Khan and the comic timing of Uday Chopra. Every syllable he delivers is a Googly that even his father Bishan Singh couldn’t conjure. The less said about Sanjay Dutt, the better. The fact that he plays a sincere cop is ironic enough. Neha Dhupia plays a reporter who can’t recognize her colleague (Hooda) when he wears an Ungli Gang mask and shows up, looming over her when she’s asleep in her bed. Then she can’t figure out that Hooda is the member of the gang when he gives her information about the gang.
D’Silva’s previous film, Kurbaan, had FBI’s most wanted criminal stabbing people in a packed bar and getting away. The plot holes in Ungli make that movie seem like a watertight masterpiece.
Ungli is a wasted opportunity, because it had all the tools for a fun comedy thriller. Perhaps next time D’Silva will deign to shoehorn melodrama when the comedy is working so well. The good thing about Ungli is it runs just shy of two hours, so even if you dislike the film, you’ll forget it the moment you reach home in time for dinner. The final shot of the movie is a giant hand showing you the middle finger, so whether you take that as a hint or not, is left to you.
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