Time spent on sets of low grade films- the basis of Miss Lovely: Ashim Ahluwalia

By Nandita Dutta • Published on April 27, 2010

Ashim Ahluwalia

Ashim Ahluwalia is a director, screenwriter, and producer. His feature film project “Miss Lovely  is one of the five projects selected for production funding during winter granting cycle of the Global Film Initiative; from 68 applicants of 34 countries.

His first feature was John & Jane, which had a world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival followed by a European premiere at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. The film won an Indian National Film Award in 2007.

He is one of those few filmmakers in India who disapprove of the Bollywood system and have ideas of filmmaking of their own. Ashim Ahluwalia on “Miss Lovely , independent filmmaking,  Bollywood and more ¦

What is “Miss Lovely all about?

MISS LOVELY is set in the Bombay of the mid-1980s. It’s the story of two brothers, Vicky and Sonu, who produce sleazy C grade films. In a sense, they are petty criminals, they interpolate illegal sex scenes into their films and are always running from the police. Then they both end up falling for the same woman. That’s their downfall. It’s a tale of betrayal and doomed love.

Where did you derive the inspiration or the idea of the film from?

Almost ten years ago, I spent a lot of time hanging out on the sets of really low grade films. I was planning a documentary about the shooting of a sex-horror film called ‘Maut Ka Chehra’ made by a bunch of ex-convicts. I spent lots of time drinking with the cast and crew of these films, and they were an amazing bunch. These renegade filmmakers produced films out of nothing. Here was genuinely independent filmmaking misfits working on the margins with pathetically low-budgets, making cinema with their own sweat, blood and tears. Their raw energy reminded me of why I set out to make films in the first place. But people were too scared to talk on camera because there was so much overlap with the underworld and prostitution, so the documentary I was trying to make never happened. The material I collected and the people I met became the basis for MISS LOVELY.

When will the film be complete? How long did this project take you?

The film will be completed by mid 2011. Since we have a French co producer, they are keen to have it ready for Cannes next year.

How do you see independent filmmaking in India today?

It’s an exciting time. There’s no doubt about it. But let’s face it; we are nowhere near China or Korea or even Thailand when it comes to radical cinema. I think the problem is that many Indian filmmakers are too safe, there’s no edge, they are too worried about stars and box office and music releases to really make something that will blow anyone away.

What do you think needs to be done to support independent filmmakers in India?

To start with, we need a proper film fund, not something with a government agenda, like the NFDC, but a fund that genuinely promotes good, radical, risky cinema and yet makes it commercially viable. Most European and many Asian countries have this. Even Iran has one – Farabi – that is who produced Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Even people like Lars von Trier could not exist without Danish national funding.

How do you see the film festival scenario in India? How far do they help independent filmmakers in terms of distribution etc.?

After completing my last film, John and Jane, I sent it to the Mumbai International Film Festival. It was rejected, and I was really disappointed. But then the film was accepted to the Toronto Film Festival and the Berlinale and won a European Media Award. I kind of realised that my film wasn’t all that bad. This is the disappointing truth: if the film hadn t hit the international festival circuit, if it hadn t been picked up by international distributors, I don t think it would have stood a chance in India.

What is your view of contemporary Indian cinema? Any filmmaker you like?

I don’t watch of lot of contemporary Indian cinema, but there are definitely interesting things going on. I think it’s still early days for a totally new wave, but I do feel a certain connection with other filmmakers of my generation. I just wish we made edgier films and didn’t give in to formulaic demands so easily.

What is it that makes you uncomfortable working within the existing Bollywood system?

Everything. All the fakeness, hammy acting, overblown plot lines, ridiculous endings. I just don’t like it.

What do you think of contemporary Bollywood cinema? Do you see things changing?

Our films are becoming more American, which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. Basically, they look and feel more like Hollywood in terms of the gloss, editing, camera movement and all that. But essentially they remain totally uninteresting.

What are the parameters by which you judge the success of your film?

If I’m happy with it, it’s a success.

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14 Responses to “Time spent on sets of low grade films- the basis of Miss Lovely: Ashim Ahluwalia”

  1. mihir nath says:

    Wow… have been hearing so much about Miss Lovely through the grapevine and from what i know the director rarely does press and routinely declines requests for interviews. … just chanced upon this through a google search. a real find!! thank you.

  2. […] here to read an interview of Ashim on the making of Miss […]

  3. Bikas Mishra says:

    Congratulations to Ashim Ahluwalia! Miss Lovely makes it to Cannes Un Certain Regard.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here I see a film maker with lot of conviction swimming against the tide and achieving his goal. We need more film makers in India who believe in themselves and kick the formulaic cinema. Congrats Ashim, we expect more good films from you… Chakrapani Ananda, Documentary Film Maker from Hyderabad.

  5. Riyadh R says:

    Wow – just discovered your website. I’m just amazed that a director like this can even survive in our so-called movie business here. straight talk! really happy that someone finally at least represents the interests of many of us in india… i can speak for myself for sure.

  6. sunny says:

    good interview. very different take on indian cinema. is there more information on Miss Lovely?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Congrats to Ashim and wish that he wins a major award. I look forward to seeing the film with the expectation that it proves to be even better than his "John & Jane."–Jugu Abraham.

  8. congrats ashim. Proud to be apart of the cast and being associated with such an arty and appreciated film. what I found during the shoots was your grasp on the film grammer and how u would explain the scene to an actor who had just to cross the frame. proud of u my dear. Keep going it's probably because of people like u that parallel and thematic cinema will thrive….deepak bhandarkar.( dickyboy77in@yahoo.co.in).

  9. Nandita Dutta says:

    Thanks a lot Bishakha! Readers like you and their comments matter a lot to us. Keep Reading!

  10. Bishakha Narsai says:

    Great interview! Wow – cuts the bullshit and gets straight to it. I must admit I loved John & Jane (first saw the censored version on sony pix and then caught it in the cinema in germany) but this film looks like it will be very different and kind of crazy – I love that this film is more engaged with the idea of bollywood and hindi cinema in general. can’t wait. Please kep introducing new and interesting filmmakers into the public sphere.. and thanks again “dear cinema” for giving us something to read other than what aamir khan ate the other day. keep up the good work guys..!



  11. rana says:

    true – superb interview. excited to see something like this. about time we had fresh blood injected into our stagnating film scene. nice to see sites like dearcinema.com challenging typical notions of what indian films can be.

  12. SUNNYVER says:

    Hey, nice interview Nandita… I was actually looking for contact details of Mr. Ahluwalia and came across this site.

    Keep up the good work Nandita and I’d be obliged if you could pass on Mr. Ahluwalia’s contact to my id verma_suny@hotmail.com.



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