Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Ishqiya: Raw, gripping cinema
Even if you didn’t know it before, the first few frames of debutant director Abhishek Chaubey’s ‘Ishqiya’, will confirm that he has imbibed a lot of his skill from his mentor Vishal Bhardwaj. The look, tone and feel of the film are all very reminiscent of Bhardwaj’s films.
That said, Chaubey does bring his own sensibility to the film, depicting the arid, gritty landscape of Western UP and its people with a freshness that we haven’t seen very often on screen.
His characters are equally gritty, and have rough edges, and speak in a language we aren’t too used to hearing on screen, but feel so much more real. So when we meet Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and his nephew Babban (Arshad Warsi), two small-time crooks who run away with money that belongs to a local don, they seem to fit right into the landscape of the film.
On the run, they take shelter with Krishna (Vidya Balan), a widow who lives alone. But when the money goes missing and the don threatens to kill all of them if they don’t return it back to him, they devise a new plan to get back the money. In the midst of all this is the film’s main theme — Krishna’s relationship with the two men, her motives and what love means to her.
This is the kind of film that wouldn’t have mass appeal, but it is nevertheless gripping cinema. Chaubey makes a very assured debut and every frame appears to be very carefully thought out. The film has a brisk pace and a short run time of two-and-half hours ensures that you are hooked at all times.
A special mention for the casting in the film – whether it is Vidya Balan as the femme fatale Krishna, or Alok Kumar as the young sweeper in the film, they are all so entrenched in the milieu of the film that you don’t for one minute think of them as actors playing roles.
In the end, Ishqiya is bold, raw cinema. It may not be pleasant on the eyes or ears and may not have huge sets or big item numbers, but it is hugely impactful.