by Amit Upadhyaya
‘Zabaan Jale Hai’. This Urdu poem in Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya defined the world Khalujaan and Babban inhabit in this terrific film.
I must state here that I’m not a huge fan of Ishqiya. It was a loosely made but entertaining thriller.
Dedh Ishqiya is anything but loose. In fact, it is so well-crafted that it doesn’t look like Chaubey’s second film. It begins with the same scenario as the earlier one. Babban is standing in the grave, at the mercy of Mushtaq Bhai (Salman Shahid). He gets away from there and Mushtaq asks his crony, ‘Ever heard of Batman’s relevance to Joker?’ The entire film is narrated in the same note of irreverent reverence. I won’t mention any more of the plot and will allow you to see it for yourself.
The biggest surprise in the film though is the language. From Dr. Bashir Badr to Gulzar, one gets to hear the ‘zabaan’ of the old, of Urdu, at its sheer magical best. Especially when spoken by the reel- life Ghalib, Naseeruddin Shah. So many lines to be taken away for the sheer ‘tameez’, even in abuse. Vishal Bhardwaj is one of the modern greats when it comes to dialogue writing and the genius is at work here. Every word has a purpose. One must listen to each one carefully, especially the word ‘lihaaf’. Mercifully, there were no subtitles in the theatre where I saw the film.
The more said about the gorgeous visuals, the lesser it is. One particular frame that my words will fail to capture is the shot of Khalujaan, tied to a chain in a huge chamber, and two enormous shadows (dancing) on the walls. Film schools will refer to that shot a few years down the line. The hinterland has been captured gloriously in all its colours by DOP Setu.
Sreekar Prasad’s editing lends the film an extremely desired pace. It thrills sometimes. And sometimes, one pauses and observes the quietness.
There is absolutely no need to say that Shah is at his usual best and his chemistry with the terrific Arshad Warsi, is memorable. Madhuri Dixit, who has come back to the silver screen after a long time, hasn’t lost her charms at all. Age has caught up and the effort shows. But the effervescent smile can still carry off a very difficult role. It is, then, no mean achievement, that Huma Qureshi stands her own ground in front of the stalwarts.
Being a huge fan of this criminally under-utilised actor, I will dedicate an entire paragraph to Vijay Raaz. He creates a romantic, believable villain with such élan, it’s spellbinding. Watch out for his scenes with Manoj Pahwa, who delivers in a small cameo.
Chaubey must be complimented for treating this tongue-in-cheek black comedy-thriller so delicately that the subtle but consistent tone of homosexual love between the two women characters never looks undignified in a film, essentially about two foul-mouthed rogues. He has been aided a lot by Bhardwaj, the writer and the composer. The soundtrack compliments the mood of the film so well, it uplifts it by notches.
This is a rare occasion in the history of Hindi cinema, known for trashy sequels, that the second part is far superior to its original. It is sincerely hoped that Chaubey’s subsequent ventures as well as the rest of 2014 is going to be as brilliant as this experience-for-senses of a film.
(Amit Upadhyaya is a student of journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. By his own admission, however, he tries to spend most of his waking hours over Bollywood – analyzing, watching, and planning future movies.)