About the story: Abhay (Randeep Hooda), Maya (Kangana Ranaut), Goti (Neil Bhoopalam) and Kalim (Angad Bedi), four young and educated people from Mumbai, have, after an incisive incident, decided to fight actively against corruption rampant and causing injustice everywhere in the city. They form the “Ungli gang” which, hooded and with illegal methods, shows up corrupt officials, politicians etc and indicts their practices and manipulations. The masses cheer the gang while the police vainly tries to trace “Ungli”. Finally inspector ACP Ashok Kale (Sanjay Dutt) has an idea how to get hold of the gang: He engages his late partner’s son Nikhil (Emraan Hashmi), who also had joined the police force, to infiltrate the gang. Nikhil manages to contact the four friends and wins their trust. But the better he gets to know them and their motives, the more he wavers between the gang and his loyalty to Kale…
The Hindi word “ungli” means the middle finger, and sure enough Abhay, Maya, Goti and Kalim are showing the finger to the system and to the police. During the making of the movie it was said that Ungli was to be a clarion call for the Indian youth like Rang De Basanti. But these footsteps proved to be too big for Ungli. The only time you’re reminded of Rang De Basanti is during the item number of Shraddha Kapoor - the line “Dance Basanti” sounds queerly similar to the song line “Rang De Basanti”. Coincidence? You decide.
In many regards, Ungli appears half-baked, and this can’t have been just Sanjay Dutt’s fault who, after he stepped in for Anil Kapoor, in the end (like with Zanjeer and Policegiri) hardly had enough time left to finish his scenes before he had to surrender for his jail term. Especially the gang’s actions and background could have been more elaborated; hardly any detail was engrossed or deepened, many aspects were just skimmed over and sometimes simply implausible. Even the plot with Abhay and his journalist colleague Teesta (Neha Dhupia) could have yielded much more. Kangana Ranaut was wasted though of course it was Maya’s gain to be played by such a strong actress. Randeep Hooda plays the gang’s leader with a lot of self-confidence and authority.
If the members of the Ungli gang are the story’s heroes, Sanjay Dutt’s ACP Kale must be the enemy of the good guys. If, on the other hand, the good guys use illegal methods, then Kale must be on the right side, especially as he’s the perfect example for a stain-free, incorrupt and honest cop. So with two opponents where no one is really “bad” or “wrong”, you can guess that in the end no one will have to be the loser. But at least you avoid being bored by figuring out how the makers will manage to bring the four of the gang, the undercover cop and the no-nonsense cop to a common denominator.
Sanjay’s performance as ACP Kale is a very pleasant one. Finally a role again which demanded plain and quiet acting from him (no problem for him) and where in the fight scene (yes, only one and, thank God, even short) people don’t fly through the air doing twists and somersaults in slow-motion. And Sanjay had no qualms to dye his hair and moustache grey and thus look more aged than he actually was. Bravo! His interactions with Emraan are good, and it’s nice to see him together with old colleagues like Reema Lagoo and Mahesh Manjrekar. However, this cannot completely console for the fact that even Sanjay’s and Emraan’s roles were quite neglected by the makers - they are rather trivial and without any deeper looks into their personalities. And if adept actors like Sanjay and Emraan fail to give more edges to their roles, then you know that this project lacked much more than just a little more time on the sets for Sanjay Dutt.
Ungli proves that even Dharma Productions is able to produce mediocrity. Though the film is surely no failure and provides two hours of light entertainment with a pinch of social criticism. But it’s pale, and in no way the clarion call to the youth it was meant to be. It is to be feared that they’ll rather react like the people in the film: they’ll dutifully protest against corruption, cheer “Ungli gang, we love you!”, and carry on. And the hopes propagandized in the end are most probably not even the makers’ hopes. Because nobody considers them possible.
Produced by Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar; Directed by Rensil D’Silva
114 Min; DVD: Shemaroo, English Subtitles (rather faulty; including songs); Bonus: Making of the film