Its not often that I watch two new releases back-to-back. I usually pick one, and ignore the other till it either receives an obscene amount of recommendations or it comes on cable. But with Rann yesterday and Ishqiya today, I had to break that habit…coz both looked extremely promising and paisa-vasool. And let me say it: Ishqiya more so.
A shishya’s work may not better the guru’s but this effort from debutante director Abhishek Chaubey can be a potent example that it can come pretty close. Vishal Bharadwaj being the guru here and his Omkara, the comparative benchmark. But in all fairness, whilst Omkara was a re-telling of a Shakespearean saga, Ishqiya is penned by Vishal Bharadwaj, Sabrina Dhawan and Abhishek Chaubey and the latter in the role of the director, brings it on-screen in a delectable manner.
Set in the bhayya belt of Uttar Pradesh, Ishqiya is the tale of two petty thieves – Khaalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) who’re on the run from a goon who’ve they robbed and end up in sleepy Gorakhpur, taking refuge in the house of their old friend. The friend is dead now but his widow Krishna (Vidya Balan) gives them shelter nevertheless and decides to help them out when the goons threaten them with a pay-up-or-perish deadline. The three put their heads together and plan a sinister coup & as the plot unfolds layer-by-layer, several hidden truths and stealth motives come to light.
The seemingly odd love triangle between Khalujaan – Krishna – Babban is the highpoint of the movie and is quite well handled. Khalujaan’s romance is old-school, clean, pure, delicately developed around tender talks, mundane kitchen-tasks and nuanced by some old hindi film music from S D Burman and Hemant Kumar. Babban’s is raw, bashful, physical and lustful in nature. And fitted to the latest & raunchiest filmy tunes – something that highlights the generational gap between the protagonists. Krishna plays up to both advances with aplomb and suavely manages to manipulate both to her advantage.
All three actors’ performances are excellent. We all know Naseer’s a truly capable actor and he delivers a carefully restrained performance. Arshad impressed us all as Circuit/Lucky/Ballu/Madhav and now he adds the brashful and free-willed Babban to his growing repertoire of likeable characters. Vidya Balan is surely a revelation (at least for me!) and plays the lonely romantic, the lustful seductress and the scheming wench with aplomb. She rises a few notches as an actress but I wouldn’t agree with my co-watchers that she’s HOT! Apart from the love triangle, the chemistry between Naseer and Arshad is also crackling.
The movie’s other aces include the peppy dialogues, which are expectedly crude and raw but never come across as ill-fitting or out-of-place. In fact, there’s a palpable lack of more juicy expletives, which is usually the norm for such rustic locales & people. The two songs – badi dheere jali and dil to bachcha hae ji – do not hamper the narrative in any way and complement it just nicely.
For me, the drawbacks included the at-times convoluted sub-plot of the local sena and the arm smuggling nexus, which is never fully explained or justified. Krishna’s ulterior motives are justified but to wait till Babban and Khalujaan show up is also never explained. There are several loose ends towards the climax, which left me with a ? over my head as the movie ended. And the climax in itself was kinda odd and was seemingly out-of-context with the initial motives.
Negatives aside, its a given that Ishqiya is one of the better films to have come out of Bollywood in recent times. Its neither a leave-your-brains-at-home type of a caper nor a movie for the intelligentsia. The apparent rustic setting may make it seem like its a movie for the masses but as I found out in today’s screening at PVR, even the hi-fi multiplex junta are loving it. Watch it, preferably in a single-screen theatre to fully enjoy the laughs and comments that are thrown at it.
Moi Rating: 3/5