Most times when I’m sitting down to watch a cricket match, the first two balls do it for me.
The way the batsman meets the first ball gives me a fair idea of how the match is going to go. It doesn’t work all the time, and I’m not going to say, ‘IF IT DOESN’T WORK, I WILL SHAVE MY HEAD. JAI MATA DI’ or anything like that. But the first few minutes generally show the way.
When Dedh Ishqiya begins, you know things have been set up nicely for you.
When I saw the trailers of Ishqiya a few years ago, I knew it would be a winner. The chemistry between Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi is such, that I wouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly broke into a rain song and kissed each other.
There is something about Naseeruddin Shah. He shines when there are good actors around him. It’s like ‘Good Acting’ auras are bouncing off the room when he’s with someone who can act. His iconic pairing with Om Puri is testimony to this theory. When there’s a partner at the other end, Shah mutates into a fabulous, other-worldly magician.
But when there is general morony happening, Naseeruddin Shah looks bored. Like in the last film I watched of his, John Day – there was something missing. It was like he had had three pegs and was frantically looking for the fourth, but someone was keeping it away from him.
In Dedh Ishqiya, he has his work cut out, and neatly placed in piles in front of him. Thanks primarily to Arshad Warsi. Playing the loud, rustic, vulgar Babban, Warsi begins the film like he had spent the last four years hanging around the sets, waiting for the sequel to come out.
Not a foot wrong, not an expression astray, Warsi manages to steal some screen presence even with Naseeruddin Shah at the other end. There is an edginess to him – like he could shoot your balls off while telling you a joke. And Warsi manages to remain that edgy person, not once coming off as vapid.
And just when you’ve settled into your seat, and you’re smelling the food that you’ve ordered, pleased with its fragrance and taste, you discover that the chef has a surprise for you.
By the name of Vijay Raaz.
There are few moments in Hindi cinema, that can rival Vijay Raaz going batshit crazy on screen. Having perfected the pursed lips – say-what-you-want-I’m-going-to-slap-you expression, Vijay Raaz is an absolute delight.
His frustrations with shayari, his frustration with his henchmen, and his frustration with the entire universe in general – has been squeezed out, drop for delicious drop. One needs to watch his duels with Naseeruddin Shah in the most enjoyable swayamwar in recent years, to know what I’m talking about.
Which brings us to Madhuri Dixit.
Madhuri Dixit, who had retired from films after marriage, had made a comeback with Aaja Nachle in 2007, but the audiences said ‘Nay nay’. Inspired by Yousuf Youhana, she retired again and made a comeback with Dedh Ishqiya.
She still can dance, as the makers of the films leave no stone unturned in making sure you acknowledge. But as for her performance – so compelling are Warsi and Shah’s performances, that Madhuri Dixit is reduced to playing third fiddle.
The real champion of the film, however, is Vishal Bharadwaj. India’s only true auteur, Bharadwaj, who has produced, written, done the screenplay, music, and written the dialogues, is in splendid form.
The dialogues in the film crackle with life, lighting up what would otherwise have been ordinary moments. Unlike Bhansali’s films, where languages (English in Black, Gujurati in Raam Leela) seem to isolate you from the world being shown to you, the language in Dedh Ishqiya is inviting.
You don’t understand much of it in the beginning, but so earnest seems the endeavor, that you want to strain yourself, in order to catch every word. The pastel coloured world of nawaabs and begums, the fading green walls, the large kitches, the servants attending to masters in their lawns – the world lights up like magic in front of your eyes.
My only grudge with Dedh Ishqiya is that it plays itself out long enough to become a Dhai Ghantiya, but then we live in a country where a party comes to power, and people begin to criticise it within a week.
Keeping such pretty complaints aside, Dedh Ishqiya is a mighty enjoyable film.
If you watched Dhoom 3 and contributed to that shitfest that guzzled up 500 crores from our already fatigued economy, you owe this one to the institution of Cinema.
Make up for that blunder. Go watch Dedh Ishqiya.