Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Madhuri Dixit, Arshad Warsi, Huma Qureshi
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Rating: 4 stars
If one had only been exposed to Bollywood over the past few months, one would have arrived at the conclusion that math isn’t the industry’s strong suit. Soon after Krrish 3 came out in the wake of Krrish, with Krrish 2 gone AWOL, the saucily titled Dedh Ishqiya came out, sequel to the very successful Ishqiya of 2010.
The likeable crooks from the first edition, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) are back, as is their fearsome boss Mushtaq (Salman Shahid). And there’s a new widow – Vidya Balan is replaced by a slimmer, older woman who was nonetheless in as much of a hurry to tear her clothes off in the 1990s as Vidya has been since The Dirty Picture: Madhuri Dixit. The makers of the film have also spared a thought for the nephew, who doesn’t have to compete with the charms of his uncle for the affections of the same lady – Babban now hits on Muniya (Huma Qureshi), the lady-in-waiting who attends on the bizarrely rich Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit).
The story is taken forward, as are the characters. We see more intricate shades, and both Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah play to their strengths. In this film, the uncle-nephew duo sets its sights on an expensive necklace. Khalujaan has the bright idea of leaving his nephew to the tender mercies of Mushtaq, and focusing on his next target, one that is brighter, more opulent and rather more high-maintenance than the necklace – Begum Para.
Now, if you were adept at disguise and somewhat talented with words, you could do worse than register for the swayamvara of a woman who lives in a palace and promises her hand in marriage to the best poet in town. If you’re used to getting your way, not much good with words, and a formidable ganglord, you could do worse than kidnap a poet to write your shayari and ghazal for you. This is how we meet Jaan Mohammad (Vijay Raaz), and Nur Mohammed Italvi (Manoj Pahwa), a shayar who never tires of reminding his captors of the origins of his takhallus.
The film is more than two and a half hour long, but you wouldn’t notice it for the quirky humour in the dialogue, its quick pace, and its deliciously over-the-top writing. Now, the last few Hindi films I have subjected myself to include Bullet Raja, R…Rajkumar, Dhoom 3 and a re-mastered version of Sholay. In short, it’s been a crap fest. So, it was rather wonderful to look back in amazement during the interval, and figure that this wouldn’t be another wasted Friday afternoon, mumbling “touchwood” to avoid the jinx, of course.
The Ishqiya series of films have been marketed as thriller-comedy. That sounds like a genre that would give you a whole of slapstick humour to wade through. Thankfully, the screenwriters and dialogue writers have ensured that the two films so far are higher on the black comedy and satire quotient than slapstick. Even the nudge-nudge-wink-wink humour relies on comic timing, which both Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi are rather good with.
The motor-mouth from Ishqiya has been replaced by the contemplative widow, whose mourning has pulled her away from her biggest passion – dance. In a series of endearing scenes, Khalujaan tries to bring dance and music back into her life.
[quote]Madhuri Dixit did what all good Indian women do – married a doctor and migrated to America[/quote]
I wouldn’t call myself a Madhuri Dixit fan. Her child-woman antics did get to me in the 1990s, and I was too young, and too ignorant of Bollywood, to feel her absence when she did what all good Indian girls do – married a doctor and migrated to America. But to see her in this film, playing heroine without looking desperate for a comeback, making full use of her luminous eyes, winning smile and graceful moves, is to be thrown back into a world I didn’t realise I was nostalgic for.
Huma Qureshi, who has been an excellent actress in most of the films she has acted in, since her sparkling entry in Gangs of Wasseypur, isn’t awed by the presence of Madhuri Dixit, and stands out as the protective, flirtatious Muniya.
The film’s lopsided examination of societal norms keeps up with a cleverly paced thriller. In what is a relief from the fast cuts and riotous colours that have begun to characterise grand sequences, the film is expertly shot and lovingly muted. The lighting and camera angles delight us, and pull us into this quaint world where everyone speaks a melodious language. The last time we saw Madhuri sway to old world tunes was amidst the decadent excess of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. Give me Dedh Ishqiya any day.