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Ishaqzaade review: Parineeti, Arjun make it work!

Habib Faisal
Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Gauhar Khan
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She's a firecracker. The kind with mischievous twinkling eyes, who goes to the local bazaar to buy jhumkas but seals the deal for a gun instead, and that she keeps in her cloth jhola along with books and other such. Just another day for Zoya Qureshi (Parineeti Chopra, Ladies Vs. Rickey Bahl) whose father is contesting the local elections.

Her brothers (they are based in a small town in UP) are affectionate but laugh when she says she wants to become an MLA like her father. She contests for him vociferously in her college. The father affectionately calls her Madam Zalzala.

On the other hand is Parma (Arjun Kapoor) who calls himself a jhalla (idiot) and is related to the opposing party - the Chauhans. The town Almor is divided between the Qureshis and the Chauhans, and the two are now actively contesting for the MLA's seat.

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Zoya and Parma start off on an ugly note, but eventually love reigns. But the fact that Zoya is a Muslim and Parma a Hindu is causing more problems than they can imagine. The issue boils down to the fact the two belong to political families and their marriage would be a death-knell for the carefully cultivated religion-based politics.

Slightly reminiscent of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, the film plummets downhill in the second half. We are unable to understand our characters and their motives clearly. Why does Zoya behave out-of-character and forgive when her trust is broken, how and when does Parma - who accepted Zoya due to circumstances - 'really' fall in love.

In fact, it is this oscillating between love and hate that's perplexing. Surely, it's not that easy for a person to fluctuate between the two conflicting emotions, even if you argue that they're closely linked.

The cliche of the golden-hearted prostitute is back and Chand Baby (Gauhar Khan), who has a huge crush on Parma, selflessly helps him and Zoya.

The film is shot masterfully (Hemant Chaturvedi: Kurbaan, Dus Kahaniyaan). You revel in the authenticity and aesthetics. Even the chase scenes where characters run down sinewy roads, through cow sheds, behind walls, and over roofs are breathtaking.

The background score (Ranjit Barot: Shaitan, Tashan) is great fun. The beautiful, trippy songs (Amit Trivedi: Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, No One Killed Jessica, Aisha) are picturised with great love and care.

An aesthete, writer-director Habib Faisal (Do Dooni Chaar) makes a film that delights you in its little details. The nuances within the dialogue are delightful. The way a teacher asks a student to stop "argumenting", or the way small-town India adapts English to make the language its own ("ho jayenge go to hell").

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You love the characters and their chemistry; you'll want to forgive the lack of justifications for their turn-around. Except you can't. For that's the core of the film.

The film is turbulent, and not just in its physical violence. It's an emotionally aggressive film, which paradoxically lacks intensity. So while it has the tools to shake you up and get your attention, it can't hold your interest throughout.

The ending is impactful, even if sad. And honestly, saddling the audience with a social message disclaimer at the end has always struck this writer as something that's best avoided. Surely there are more subtle ways of driving home the point.

Watch Ishaqzaade for Parineeti Chopra's spectacularly stellar performance. Watch it for Arjun Kapoor, an unquestionable star-in-the-making. These marvellous actors will mesmerise you, but not so much the film.

Rating: 3 stars


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