<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Abhishek Chaubey. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Madhuri Dixit, Arshad Warsi, Huma Qureshi, Vijay Raaz, Salman Shahid
Poetic in its dialogue though a bit over the top in its drama, Dedh Ishqiya has its moments of fun and a welcome twist but it feels a bit stretched and lacking in the sauciness that Ishqiya bubbled over with.
It’s strange that I watched this film on the same day as I watched Sholay (in 3D). Not someone who’s grown up watching Sholay a hundred times – I must’ve watched it once or twice when I was young – I was entertained and awed by people’s fascination with the film. A friend of mine calls it flawless. I beg to differ: Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) could have been chasing Babbar (Amjad Khan) from the very beginning; instead they play Holi and woo their love interests!
But I mention Sholay since I saw a few elements from that film being used in Dedh Ishqiya. The coin toss, the camaraderie (partners for life), the ultimatum to dance by the villain to the female lead etc. I don’t know if it’s just me or not but it’s not unknown for directors to be inspired by classic films and pay homage to them.
The plot for Dedh Ishqiya isn’t too unique so don’t go expecting the world from it. And director Abhishek Chaubey has taken a bit too long, I think, in establishing (or trying to) characters and background. Unfortunately you never quite sink your teeth into Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s Shahi Begum who dances and smiles but never quite has any punchy dialogue.
The widowed Begum is looking for a Nawab to rule with her and holds a contest where suitors must woo her with shayaris (Urdu poetry) and nishane-baazi (skeet shooting).
Our heroes from the first film Khalu (Naseeruddin Shah), as a Nawab called Iftekhar, and Babban (Arshad Warsi) his reluctant butler must win the affections of the Begum and her lady in waiting Munniya (Huma Qureshi). They must face off with fellow scoundrel Jaan Mohammad (Vijay Raaz) who wants the Begum and her estate. But little do they know that they are merely pawns in a grander scheme.
Of course there’s the customary ‘Vishal Bhardwaj’ violence but it’s subdued and slapstick.
Naseeruddin Shah gets a role befitting his presence (after a couple of not-so-good films) and shines in it. Vijay Raaz is suitably badass. Arshad Warsi is in his element mostly in scenes where’s he’s playing off Naseeruddin Shah and Huma Qureshi. The beautiful Huma’s Munniya is a character with intriguing layers. Nawabs can have the begum, Munniya is a character with far more depth and mystery. Huma Qureshi is wonderful of course and I hope we see much more of her in the future.
Dedh Ishqiya looks pretty but sometimes you wonder where it’s all going. Sure the subtle twist and the hint of something else simmering beneath the serene poetry is interesting – and the implied sexuality of the characters is far better than a full explanation – but it never quite packs a punch that has you gobsmacked.
PS: A friend of mine mentioned how sad it was that a veteran actress (Madhuri Dixit-Nene) had to stage a ‘comeback’ with an actor (Naseeruddin Shah) 20 years older to her but middle-aged actors are prancing around with girls half their age. Point to be noted perhaps.