That’s exactly how you feel right from the start of this film. There’s a bullet waiting to shock you every half an hour! You know a lot of people actually thought that Ishqiya was directed by Vishal Bharadwaj… he’s given the music, co-written the screenplay, written the dialogues and he’s co-producing the film but it has been directed by debutant Abishek Chaubey who’s worked with Bharadwaj on Kaminey and Blue Umbrella. When you are a new director and you join you film with a name like Vishal Bharadwaj … you can do two things for your film
One: the strength of the name alone pulls in crowds even for the first-day-first-show so that in competition with RGV’s Bachchan bonanza, Rann and internationally acclaimed film Road to Sangam, Ishqiya still pulls big audiences.
And two: the expectations rise when you go to watch it… so much so that you feel Ishqiya will be another path-breaking Bharadwaj like film.
While the first works in the film’s favour the other becomes a huge disadvantage because I honestly feel that I would have enjoyed Ishqiya much, much more had I not gone expecting a film that will blow my mind… because honestly, it didn’t albeit it was a good watch.
Naseerudin Shah, Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan all three very fine actors come together the grime and dirt of northern India bringing three tantalizing and powerful characters to screen. Director Abhishek wastes no time in shocking us as just 5 mins into the film there’s an explosion!
Krishna (Vidya Balan) and her felon husband Verma may have been killed in that explosion… cut to petty thieves Babban (Arshad Warsi) and Khalujaan (Naseerudin Shah) dancing on a mountain top in their knickers to a band singing Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh! You can’t help but laugh. But their dance is soon interrupted by Jiju Mushtaq a don out to get these two. This sets the mood just right for the film thoda dhamaka, thodi hassi, phir eik aur dhamaka! Ishqiya is filled with unpredictable twists just when you expect a rabbit to be pulled out from under the hat out comes a cat! As Babban and Khalu make a run from Mushtaq they desperately search for a place to hide and are sent to Verma’s house where we find out that Krishna indeed got saved while her husband died. What follows is a game of hide and seek where the cat seeks the mouse or the mouse seeks the cat we cannot say! Krishna is not as demure as she seems and there’s more than meets the eye as Babban and Khalu fall hopelessly in love with her. “Par Ishq mein sab jayaz hai!”
The beauty of Ishqiya lies in its performances. Brilliant is an understatement as everyone on the screen performs, from the leads to the teenager who plays Nandu. Vidya is simply superb as she puzzles us with what she’s up to… sometimes seducing both men with their weaknesses… sometimes as if she’s falling in love and sometimes being a mean conniving bi**h! The actor who plays Mustaq Jiju is Salman Shahid and if you’re wondering where you’ve seen him earlier… think Kabul Express! He’s the actor who plays the Taliban soldier Imran Khan.
Chaubey depicts all that goes on hidden beneath the dusts of North-Indian villages. The scene where Arshad walks into what looks like a military pep talk between gun-holding goons is both humourous and shocking at the same time. Most of the humour is brought about by the dialogues and the casual usage of swear words is reminiscent of Omkara. “C*****am Sulfate” for one is something that makes you role with laughter every time someone uses the word on screen! There’s even an old lady roaming around with a torch who makes you laugh with her lingo. Naseerudin Shah and Arshad Warsi both have the accents of the people of that area perfectly down to the “T”! Vidya Balan also does a marvellous job with her Bhojpuri.
I thought that the biggest setback of Ishqiya was that though it started out like something which will be a double cross meets triple cross meets double cross but in fact ended up being a revenge story which was a big letdown. The dialogues are thoroughly enjoyable and at most points funny. The screenplay is slightly ambiguous in the first half though just before the interval the story catches grip. Once true intentions are reveals the pace of the film slacks even further and it drags a bit till the climax.
The music has Vishal Bharadwaj in bold letters written all over it! Ibn Batuta and Dil Toh Bacha Hai really stand out while the rest of the songs are more on a classical note with Rekha Bharadwaj’s unique vocals. The songs are beautifully places and they don’t disrupt the flow of the film.
Director Abhishek keeps the cinematography simple but some of the scenes inside Balan’s village house are beautifully shot.
Overall Ishqiya is worth watching once for its amazing performances but if you’re expecting a roller-coaster ride or path breaking cinema then Ishqiya is not your answer.
Rating – 3/5.