The ApunKaChoice movie review of Dedh Ishqiya. When it’s a toss-up between having your most loved organ chopped off or restituting a stolen necklace to its owner, we know what any virile man would do. And when it’s a choice between that very gem-studded necklace and the love of a beautiful Begum with a smile as radiant as the twinkle of Yad-al-Jauza (Betelgeuse) in the Orion, we know what any poetic heart would do.
The consummate scoundrel Babban is out to retrieve a stolen necklace, Khalujan out to steal the Begum’s heart, and the nominal Begum has more skeletons than gems in her cupboard.
Throw in a smitten gunda disguising himself as Nawab (Vijay Raaz) to win the Begum’s love and you have a tale of intrigue within intrigue, wheels within wheels, honking its way through mushairas, run-down havelis, crowded baazars, all the way to a desolate railway station for a culmination into gunplay where not a single bullet finds its target.
Set in the fictional UP town of Mahmudabad, 'Dedh Ishqiya' is a smartly written film that’s, alas, too overwrought for its own good. It builds up a few scenes darn well, but fails to give the finishing touch. A case in point is a sequence where Babban and Khalujaan are cornered by the fake Nawab Italvi (Vijay Raaz) and his goons. The two parties hold each other at gunpoint throughout the night, and when dawn breaks and along with it a school assembly song (Humko mann ki shakti dena), the gun-totters just walk away from each other.
It’s the dark humour and the performances by the entire ensemble that make Dedh Ishqiya eminently watchable. Madhuri Dixit is still a heart-stopper, particularly when she shows those wonderful dance moves of hers. Naseeruddin Shah is a master actor who knows well not to overplay his hand, shaking or firm. He keeps switching from the decorous, poetic Nawab Iftikhar to the scheming Khalujan with the ease of a veteran. Arshad Warsi is clearly the scene stealer here, given the funniest lines that he cracks with aplomb. Huma Qureshi is the cunning seductress who strings Arshad along and then tosses him aside like ash off a cigarette. Vijay Raaz is verily loathsome (as intended) as the cocky Nawab with the manners of a lout.
Dedh Ishqiya takes the viewer into poetic reverie with some thoughtful couplets from Bashir Badr and with equal flourish it smacks in the obscene expletives.
Director Abhishek Chaubey tells a many-sided story artfully, but with little impact. One never sees a real spark of chemistry between Madhuri Dixit and Naseeruddin Shah, not for the actor’s incompetence, but for writer and director’s lack in building it up in the screenplay. More palpable are the vibes between Arshad Warsi and Huma Qureshi.
The songs (Vishal Bhardwaj) keep popping in at regular intervals without bothering one much, and there’s a gratuitous backstory between Madhuri and Naseer that might well have been done away with.
Verily watchable, but no great shakes to rave about, Dedh Ishqiya is fun as long as it lasts, but it gives you nothing to carry home except the feeling of being caught leg-before without losing the ‘gilli’.