Or I am more aptly naming this "Hot Holy Damn, Arshad Warsi is Too Sexy For Words!" Okay, now that I've got that out of my system for now, I have to say that I was very excited to see this movie. I remember seeing the promo trailer eons ago and thought it reminded me quite a bit of the Cate Blanchett/Billy Bob Thornton/Bruce Willis film Bandits. While that movie did include a love triangle between the three leads, that is where the similarities end.
Directed by first time director Abhishek Chaubey, who cut his teeth writing screenplays and assistant directing for movies like Omkara, The Blue Umbrella and Kaminey, all which were critically acclaimed (though to be honest I tried watching Kaminey once and fell asleep). What Chaubey achieves in this film is the perfect balance of comedy, gritty realism and romance resulting in a wonderfully compelling, extremely well written story of two down and outs who find much more than either of them are looking for.
The movie begins with Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) finding themselves in a bit of hot water with Mushtaq Bhai (Salman Shahid) for something we're not quite sure, but there's a history there and it involves money and ice. Our boys are resourceful though and find themselves at the doorstep on an old cell-mate, who has unfortunately expired. However, his widow, Krishna (Vidya Balan) cautiously let's them in, and thus begins the foundation to our story.
Both of the men are instantly drawn to Krishna, for she is a crafty sorceress, selectively choosing which sides of her personality to expose to each man. And it works. Tapping into both Khalu and Babban's desires, Krishna hatches a plot that will solve all of their financial problems, but no scheme ever goes off as you originally plan, and what ensues is a roller coaster ride complete with unexpected twists and turns.
Ishqiya is one of those films that relies heavily on performance. It is almost entirely dialogue driven so you'd better hope that you have actors on board that can give the script the kind of genius it requires. Luckily for us, we get that in all three actors. Naseeruddin Shah is one of the those actors that demands respect even if you've never before seen another one of his movies. As Khalu, he expresses every characteristic of an aging man who falls for a young woman so wonderfully that you believe he has a genuine chance of winning her. His performance comes off as effortless, which is almost what you'd expect, but still leaves you in awe.
Thank God that we are getting to see some strong roles played by equally strong women. Vidya Balan has been on my radar for some time, but in this film she just shines! There are not many actresses out there than can emote such a variation of emotions at once. Yet, as Krishna, Vidya perfectly plays a character which requires her to look madly in love, vulnerable & helpless yet tough & menacing, the epitome of grace one moment yet wild and seductive the next, sometimes without even uttering a word. Absolutely one of the very best roles I have seen of Vidya's ever. Plus I'd kill to have Vidya's eyebrows (Okay, not really relative to the film, but they're really awesome!)
Arshad Warsi, oh my gosh, what can I say? There's something about Arshad that compels me to watch him. He is often the only good thing in otherwise sub par movies, at least for me, but in Ishqiya, I was absolutely blown away! With his kohl ringed eyes, ready wit, goofy grin, aggressive sexuality, angry stare and lovable roguishness, Babban is a force to be reckoned with. *spoiler* Though it was reported that he was very nervous about a crucial kissing scene in the film, it paid off big time, and is one of those erotically charged scenes that will be remembered in Hindi cinema for some time.*end spoiler* With Ishqiya under his belt, maybe we'll get to see Arshad in roles that he was born to play, instead of the secondary comic relief, because, man on man, does he have something very special! I'm very much looking forward to watching his first home production Hum, Tum Aur Ghost where he plays the lead romantic role. Also, if anyone is interested, Filmigirl will be hosting an international watchalong of HTAG on May 7th. Go here to register.
A quick note on the cast's chemistry. One word: perfection. We get a complete sense of camaraderie between uncle and nephew with Babban and Khalu in every sense. They love and fight with each other as real family would in a very believable way. The sexual tension between Khrisna and Babban is undeniably sweltering, and I applaud Chaubey for pushing the envelope.
Though the story and performances are undoubtedly key in the success of Ishqiya, I have to make special mention of the wonderful cinematography. No gringy cities, no European locations, only rural India, and every frame is shot to enhance its beauty. Also, no Hindi movie would be complete without music. The film's music, from Vishal Bhardwaj, is brilliant. Not only do we get to hear some beautiful older tunes (if someone knows what the opening song is called by the group of singers when Babban and Khalu are dancing, let me know), but there are clear winners on the soundtrack. Dil to Bachcha Hai and Ibn-E Batuta, which has been stuck in my head for days (watch the dvd special edition for a fun picturization), are my favorites, but the whole soundtrack is beautiful. Even the background score is fantastic, and fits the overall feel of the movie perfectly.
Run, don't walk, and watch this film. It is officially my new favorite Hindi movie. Also, make sure to watch all the special features on the dvd. In addition to Ibn-E Batuta, there's also a terrific making of featurette, as well as loads of deleted scenes (including a small shower scene for those Arshad fans!). Absolute perfection.