As a director, Vishal Bhardwaj has gone from strength to strength. From Maqbool in 2003, Omkara in 2006 and last year’s critically acclaimed Kaminey, amongst others; Vishal has proven his knack for unique story-telling in a predominantly commercialized Indian cinema. Even though his work is littered with many other accomplishments, Ishqiya has to be his finest yet as a producer and writer.
In Ishqiya he hands Abhishek Chaubey, who worked as a screenwriter with Vishal on previous projects, most notably on Kaminey and Omkara (inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello), a directorial debut. Though Vishal’s influence on Abhishek is evident in the darkness the film purveys, Abhishek still manages to display his own skill as we see the rural backdrop of Uttar Pradesh (UP) through a fresh perspective.
Abhishek does justice to the lawlessness of the rustic landscape by romanticizing crime, showcasing prejudice and bringing forth social issues in a very balanced manner. Do not be fooled by the tagline as this is not your run of the mill love story. While your consciousness picks up on the main theme and storyline of two crooks hiding out in a village and romancing a local woman, it is in fact rich in subconscious messages.
It deals heavily in devotion, deception and exploitation in the form of a seductive woman, Kisna who manipulates Khalujaan and Babban through her feminine charms and confident lies. The three actors do a magnificent job of portraying their characters. Vidya Balan plays the seductive and conniving Kisna effortlessly as the abusive language seems to roll off her tongue. Naseeruddin Shah delivers yet another flawless performance as an aging crook. But, it is Arshad Warsi, who we are more used to seeing in comedic roles, who executes the role of Babban, an impish and wary thief.
However, Abhishek incorporates many sub-plots to keep the audience satisfied with a complete film. One of the best lines delivered in a well written film comes from a fifteen-year-old boy Nandu who says, “Before the kids learn to wash their bottoms, they are taught how to use a gun.” This one sentence aptly presents the philosophy that adults and children adhere to in rural areas.
Add to that the wars fought based on caste or gang loyalties, kidnapping and poverty, and the final result is a rural village in India, which is very similar to ones over here. By and large the director combines the beauty of India and the problems that plague it in a very well-worked and scripted film.
Music, an essential part of film-making, especially in India as they try and overload a movie with dance numbers (inevitably all Indian films have at least one song which can be used as a wedding dance number), is used tastefully in Ishqiya. It gives a traditional and cultural feel to the plot of the story. Apart from the hit song ‘Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji’, it is Vidya’s solo number which uses a female vocalist and a sitar to give it a minimalistic touch while keeping with the roots.
Great cinematography by Mohana Krishna is supported by some pertinent editing which makes the film a visual treat. Even though some shots are graphic they are quite pleasing as they keep with the offensive and crass nature of the entire film. Where fans might have trouble digesting the exploitation of women, Abhishek forces them to see the sad truth in certain situations.
Overall the film is a complete one as it stays consistent with the themes and never scares from being offensive, whether in the context of content or language. The subliminal themes, coupled with the central story of being led astray while blinded by love play off each other amusingly. Littered with jokes, unexpected twists and turns, crudeness and some brilliant performances from the actors all the way to the filmmakers, the film is a joyous ride through unruly lives with a backdrop of the countryside.
Definitely a must-see as this is an out of the ordinary love-story which will treat audiences to a coarse, fierce and riveting film. So for the next movie night, forget about your masala mix movies and feast your eyes on a new generation of filmmakers and voices vying for your eyes and ears. Ishqiya is one of many in a developing trend of relevancy in India. – Amar Ayaz
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2010, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Vishal Bhardwaj, Raman Maroo, Director – Abhishek Chaubhey, Music Director – Vishal Bhardwaj, Cast – Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Vidya Balan