You need to have a strong stomach to absorb Ishqiya. It's high on drama, it's wild, it's real. But it's not dark, it's not sleazy, it's not crass. Frankly, you don't expect debutante director Abhishek Chaubey to make a stereotypical fare thanks to the tutelage by his guru Vishal Bhardwaj, who loves to swim against the tide and undertake risks in film after film.
You could call Ishqiya a distant cousin of Omkara. Set in Gorakhpur in North India, the film has a rustic feel, depicts characters that may make you uncomfortable and is laced with saucy lingo. Yet, it's different than Ishqiya.
Final word? You can't help but fall in ishq with Ishqiya. Tired of sherbat? Try this spicy jaljeera for a change!
Two thieves, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi), are on the run from their boss, Mushtaq. They seek refuge at a friend's house, but instead meet his widow, Krishna (Vidya Balan). The time spent together draws the duo to her, Khalu with his tinted vision of old-fashioned love and Babban with his lustful eye. But the past catches up with all three!
There's no denying that the promos had prepared me of the journey ahead, yet it took us a good 15-odd minutes to get into the world of Khalujaan, Babban and Krishna. But once you get sucked into their world, the blurred images start getting clearer and clearer and you become an active participant in their journey.
The first hour passes in a jiffy, but the story actually gets dramatic and volatile in its second hour. It's at this stage that things start getting more and more unpredictable. The story does a somersault every 10 minutes and by the time it reaches its finale, you're curious to know how the debutante director would conclude this saga. The end, of course, will have its share of advocates and adversaries, but the fact remains that it's offbeat.
Abhishek Chaubey is a welcome addition to the ranks of avid storytellers. His choice of the subject and also handling of the material is what makes this film so eminently watchable. Not once do you feel that Ishqiya has been helmed by a first-timer. Note the change of events in the song Dil To Bachcha Hain Ji or the kidnap drama and the heated argument that follows thereafter. Even the passionate lovemaking sequence between Arshad and Vidya has been dexterously canned.
However, Chaubey and his team of writers could've kept the writing simplistic towards the finale. It's complex and also lacks clarity. Yet, all said and done, screenplay writers Vishal Bhardwaj, Sabrina Dhawan and Abhishek Chaubey deserve kudos for coming up with a film that keeps you hooked for most parts.
Vishal Bhardwaj's musical score has his unmistakable stamp all over. The film is embellished with two lilting gems - Ibne Batuta and Dil To Bachcha Hain Ji - which are a rage with listeners already and have been juxtaposed beautifully in the plot. Mohana Krishna's cinematography is first-rate. Dialogues (Vishal Bhardwaj) are acidic and a few lines are indeed startling.
Every actor in Ishqiya delivers a sparkling performance! Naseeruddin Shah is superb as a romantic. He is matchless in the sequence when he learns the truth about Vidya and Arshad. Arshad packs in a bravura performance yet again. Post Munnabhai films, Arshad should be liked in this one the maximum. Vidya continues to surprise. It's a dynamic performance undoubtedly. Paa and Ishqiya are two landmarks in her career.
The actors enacting the role of Jijaji, the kidnapped victim and Vidya's husband are all perfect. The child, who interacts with Arshad, is natural. In fact, every performance in Ishqiya is worthy of mention.
On the whole, Ishqiya is definitely worth a watch. The film has a riveting plot, great performances, soulful music, an absorbing story and skilful direction to make the viewer fall in ishq with it. It should appeal to the hardcore masses as also the multiplex junta.
Verdict: Four stars