Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Ishaqzaade: A rugged love story
At first glance, Habib Faisal’s “Ishaqzaade” has a lot going for it — there’s some great casting, good direction and performances. The milieu is different — arid, rugged, rural India and this is about feisty, gutsy lovers who are smart enough not to view the world through rose-tinted glasses.
At the halfway mark, Faisal sets up the film so tantalisingly, you can only wonder what surprises he plans on throwing at you. But the second half is somewhat of a let-down. The story goes haywire, characters act out of character, and the whole film sort of ends in a whimper, when it should have ended with a bang — which is how it starts.
Faisal’s introductory scene is very impactful. Two school kids from a small town swearing, calling the other all sorts of names and even hurling stones — setting up the animosity between the two protagonists very well. Zoya (Parineeti Chopra) as the fiery daughter of the local Muslim MLA, with political ambitions of her own, is perfectly cast. Arjun Kapoor plays Parma, the brash grandson of Zoya’s father’s main political rival.
Both Zoya and Parma have every reason to hate each other, but when they end up falling in love, there are many repercussions — both political and personal.
To say any more would be to spoil the plot, but Faisal knows his characters very well. He knows this village and its people and how things work. There are some lovely moments, especially between the two leads and their chemistry is crackling. Faisal also makes telling points about the politics of small-town India where votes are decided on the basis of caste and religion and family honour is above all else.
But these components don’t come together to form a great film, and the sum of its parts is greater than the whole, at least as far as “Ishaqzaade” goes. Faisal falters in the second half and it doesn’t turn out to be the film that it set out to be.
But there are plenty of positives, and Parineeti Chopra is the biggest one. She is crackling in the film, and one of the main reasons to watch it. Here is a heroine who has spunk and isn’t afraid to show it and has the acting chops to play that role to the hilt. Arjun Kapoor makes an assured debut, and although you find him trying a little too hard at times, he has an easy screen presence and might remind you of Abhishek Bachchan in his early days. A special word for Gauhar Khan, who shines in a small role as a dancer who helps Parma and Zoya.
Amit Trivedi’s music is lilting and pleasant on the ears, especially ‘Pareshaan’ and the title track.
“Ishaqzaade” isn’t as good a film as it could have been, but there are still enough reasons to watch it.