Everybody knows there is a Karan Johar/Yash Raj school of filmmaking – there have been a lot of graduates from that school – Siddharth Anand (Tara Rum Pum), Nikhil Advani (Kal Ho Naa Ho), Shaad Ali (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom), Kunal Kohli (Hum Tum), etc. However, Ishiqya announces a new Bollywood school of filmmaking – Vishal Bhardwaj school of filmmaking. They say imitation is the best form of flattery – and Ishqiya has the mark of Vishal Bhardwaj all over it, even though direction is credited to Abhishek Chaubey. I do not mean to take away from the debutant director, but from the setting in a remote village near Gorakhpur to the wry, rustic humour, it’s Bhardwaj all the way.

Of course, it can be explained to an extent by the fact that screenplay and dialogues are written by Bhardwaj himself – and he … err … produced the movie as well. He was the music director too – Dil to Bachha Hai Ji will continue to play in the background long after you have exited the movie hall. But my great respect for the man is because of the performances he can extract from his artistes – be it Maqbool or Omkara or Kaminey. Each of his actors – big or small – deliver their best performances under him – and you will be really hard pressed to find a single fault in his movies as far as acting is concerned. And the best part is, he doesn’t work with the same actor twice (the only exception is Pankaj Kapoor in Maqbool & Blue Umbrella).

So it’s no surprise that Ishqiya has blowout performances by Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and a number of small character actors whom probably you would have never heard of. Naseeruddin saab wasn’t mentioned, not because he didn’t do a good job (it’s difficult for him to do a bad job anyway), but because his character in Ishqiya is understated compared to the other two. Arshad and Naseeruddin star as two petty criminals on the run – Babban & Khalujaan. Desperate to find a hiding hole away from their pursuer Mushtaq’s eyes, they land at their friend’s village near Gorakhpur, only to find his widow Krishna there (Vidya Balan).

Both Khalujaan and Babban get attracted to the demure, alluring but tough-as-nails Krishna – Khalujaan first in the old-fashioned romantic way and Babban’s lust getting the better of him later. But Mushtaq and a lot of other unexpected people catch up with Babban and Khalujaan, leading to story twists you wouldn’t have seen coming. The chemistry between all three is great, and Arshad Warsi gives his best performance since his Circuit act, stealing all the laughs.

The defining characteristic of Ishqiya is the colourful rustic Hindi used – it may be the authentic cowbelt language, but if you are not paying enough attention, you will miss a couple of words completely. And it is liberally sprinkled with Hindi expletives – much more than Omkara, for comparision – so the squeamish ones stay away and the non-Hindi people get at least one proper Hindi speaker with you. Or you could always make do with an engineer (all engineering hostels have this as their lingua franca :)

The other big talking point for a long time is going to be the Arshad Warsi – Vidya Balan kiss. Man that has to be the most smoking kiss on Indian movies – full of lust as they go for each other tongues!! I don’t know how they shoot a scene like that and then go back normally to their respective vanity vans!

Abhishek Chaubey makes a very impressive debut in Ishqiya – it has all the hallmarks of master Bhardwaj himself. I would actually hold back to his second movie to decide whether he is an actual prodigy or it was just Vishal Bhardwaj ghost-directing. The movie is a love story in the rustic badlands of UP amidst its caste wars, the look is very raw & earthy, and there is an undercurrent of dry humour running throughout the movie. There are some elements of gangster caper genre – given Abhishek Chaubey was the screenwriter for Kaminey & Omkara. There is nothing really wrong with the movie, but if I have to quibble, I would say that the second half meandered a bit too much. Overall, I didn’t get ecstatic over the movie like I did after Gulaal or 99. And hence the rating

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Shalu said...

Hi Pradosh,

Rocking review! I guess this time I liked the movie more than you :)

Do check out my review and let me know what you think


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