Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dedh Ishqiya Review

Nawaab Ke Naqaab Mein... 

Dedh Ishqiya

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Actors: Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Huma Qureshi, Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Vijay Raaz

Ratings: ***1/2

The film's trailer and poster, quite admittedly, tell about the seven stages of love according to sufi-ism. I was looking for that as the subtext to the film. But I couldn't relate to it at large. (Hold on, that doesn't mean the film failed for me.) Naseer's character, almost reinvented into a natural poet matured by his age, as Iftekhar, tells us in one scene in the second half that he has finally found his true love, though at this late age of life, and is currently at the penultimate stage of love, which is of junoon (obsession). He is more of Iftekhar in this sequel rather than Babban's Khalu- the conman. Babban, of course, dismisses Khalu's falling for Begum Para (fitting Madhuri Dixit) as chutiyapa (nonsense). Babban (a character that Arshad Warsi owns spectacularly), if not more quirky in his style, is still as robust and desperate. He interprets each of those stages of love as one- sex.  Yet, this film isn't even half as sexually charged as its first part.

The two female characters, Begum Para and her confidante Muniya (Huma Qureshi) are vulnerable but not as raw as Vidya Balan's Krishna from the previous part; they are a flaming pair, she alone was combustible. This shouldn't be a complaint. Because Krishna was a poor cotton-sari clad widow while Para, even if widowed, on a losing health and lost wealth, is at least, well, Begum. Their vulnerability and desperation might be similar; their rawness has to be different, which also holds upon the performance of the actor. (Balan registered an unforgettable and comparatively much stronger one. (Chutiyum Sulphate, you remember?)) This is what makes them the strongly confident characters that they are- though it is okay for Muniya to have sex, but to fall in love is strictly not for her. It was, obviously, Babban who had fallen for her. But she reminds him that it is lust, not love- between which he is still confused. (Remember, "tumhara ishq, ishq; hamara ishq, sex?"?).

Babban still has the same lateefa (joke) about parrots to present to Mushtaq for his last wish before he gets killed by the latter. But, as usual, he manages to escape; rendering Mushtaq helpless for which Mushtaq reasons- what will Batman do without the Joker? Just under the masks of Batman and Joker, the film finds a different metaphor there- with rivals Khalu and MLA Jaan Mohammad (terrific Vijay Raaz) masquerading as nawabs. They both find themselves in a (hilarious) stand-off that continues for whole night; they compete in shooting, and in poetry.

Nawabs are now reduced to nominal prestige and power, as we know. This film is set in current times, as there is a mention about models of iPhones, in a fictional yet rooted land of Mahmudabad. In this setup, a smart and subtle political punch about Bofors, Italy and NDA comes in through the only real nawab in the film- Ittalvi (played by Manoj Pahwa). He is kidnapped by Jaan for writing his ghazals. How otherwise would Jaan compete in chaste Urdu poetry recitation? Most of the dialogues in the film flow in this pristine language like wine. You may not understand it explicitly but the obvious situations make sure you do. Like when one of Jaan's men asks Ittalvi to pen down 20 ghazals by evening, he keeps alcohol in front of him and then a book, saying, "Pehle haraf, phir baraf!" (First words for ghazal, then ice for alcohol!). It's wordplay; it's poetry enough. You wonder if Gulzar Saab has written them along with the lyrics. Vishal Bhardwaj is credited for the dialogues along with music, screenplay and is also the producer of the film.

This is very much a Vishal Bhardwaj film. Abhishek Chaubey, an assistant to Bhardwaj in many of his works, has learnt to pull that off. There's an increasing fan-base in Bhardwaj's kind of cinema. (I watched this film in a seedy theater where turnout was mostly of fairly older age group. The person sitting next to me, must be in his 40s, with paan-stained teeth, was a regular at that theater. He was a proud Vishal Bhardwaj admirer. He turned to me saying, you look like the only young one here. My reason to be there was more or less same. Co-incidentally, just two days back, I was at a film screening where the person sitting next to me was Vishal Bhardwaj himself.)

The film takes the confounding path for its final climax sequence to happen. But once it begins, you realise the film is a western under that mask of Indian hinterlands. These gangsters make you guffaw with their guns. Babban and Khalu are predictably caught by Mushtaq again. This time Babban offers to present a thumri in his last wish. We do get one, with Madhuri and Huma performing on Begum Akhtar's Hamari Atariya

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