Niceties be damned! In an industry where films can’t roll out of the rut of sweet saccharine romances, brain-dead comedies and insufferable dramas, Ishqiya comes like a whiff of fresh LPG (laughter propelled grenade) which is explosively raw, ribald, gritty, grimy, and, most of all, real.
Brace up, all ye brave movie buffs, for an extraordinary ride through the badlands of rural India, where, as a village teen in the movie puts it, kids learn to shoot country-made tamancha before even being potty-trained. In this crime infested, caste-divided Gorakhpur arrive two runaway thieves, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and his nephew Babban (Arshad Warsi) saving their scruffy hides from their gun-toting boss, Mushtaq, whom they double crossed and duped of Rs 20 lakh.
Hoping to take refuge in the house of an old acquaintance named Verma (Adil Hussain), the duo rather meets the man’s widow Krishna (Vidya Balan). Thereafter begins a love triangle, as Khalujaan falls for Krishna though the testosterone driven Babban suspects the widow but not without a desire to bed her. Krishna uses her feminine charm to manipulate the shabby thieves into plotting a kidnapping. Before they could even realize, the uncle-nephew duo is sucked into an inescapable quicksand of love, lies and deception. What follows is an incendiary climax, preceded with an unexpected twist in the tale.
Kudos to debutant director Abhishek Chaubey and his co-writers Vishal Bharadwaj (also the producer) and Sabrina Dhawan for putting together a film that’s not just seeped in realism but has layers of metaphors running through the story. The gas cylinders, the old lady (tai) with a burning torch and even an unfinished joke about two parrots in a cage with their female counterpart - all fit in seamlessly in the fabric of the story. And then, there’s humour, at times bordering on horseplay but mostly soaked in rustic vernacular, the abusive and the crass, that will have you double up with delight.
There’s also a funny and finely crafted track of a wife-cheating steel baron who pays obeisance to gods every morning and, having done that, hastily sneaks out of the temple’s backdoor for some bed-rocking, whip-lashing kinky sex with his mistress. And, of course, there’s a steamy kiss between Arshad and Vidya that puts all the liplocks of Bollywood to shame. It’s not like the superficial pecks or smooches that hero and heroines mostly do in films. But a full-on, lip-smacking smooch (rather smooches) with no-holds-barred fondling and canoodling.
Putting in a nuanced performance, Vidya Balan superbly turns into an alluring hussy with shifting affections and a secret to keep. Naseer is never known to go out of form and he’s every bit the clunky old rogue with a throbbing heart. Arshad is in his elements after a long time. Adil Hussain overacts in the scene showing his emotional outburst.
Vishal Bharadwaj’s peppy and soulful tunes, Mohana Krishna’s cinematography and Chaubey’s deft direction propped with powerful performances by actors make ‘Ishqiya’ a movie worth a watch. However, the film is not without faults. The plot gets too cluttered in the second half and a few twists before the climax are a tad unpalatable to digest, but overall the film remains thoroughly gripping.