Review: Ishqiya – Femme Fatale

You don’t have to be a feminist to argue that in Hindi Cinema women often get a raw deal. They are generally reduced to dancing in the Alps in a crepe saree, heckled by goons before the hero takes them to the cleaners, abducted and tied to a chair in the villains lair, or my favorite part rain songs! It’s not very often that you see a woman in badass character, holding the men by their balls. Nor do you see someone chew and spit out one of the biggest names in theater like a piece of sugarcane. Female characters are generally so well etched, and very rarely match up to their male counterparts, forget overpowering them. Now I’m not referring to Vijayshanti-type movies like Tejaswini where she’s an inspector dishing out justice to the womanizers , corrupt politicians and drug lords. Also I don’t wish to send the wrong message across when I mentioned the holding balls part, this isn’t a Zakhmi Aurat type movie tribute either. That reminds me Raj Babbar made a career doing such movies, didn’t he?  After all not all movies need to go the Khoon Bhari Maang way, with a bruised and battered heroine, rising from the ashes like a phoenix to take down the ones who caused her pain.

Since I’m on a a roll, let me continue in the same vein. When it comes to movies where women get top billing, no one beats Kalpana Lazmi. it is impossible to fathom the pleasure she manages to extract from inflicting pain upon men in her movies but Chingaari isn’t atleast my idea of femme fatale.  Calling someone as a ‘Manoranjak Kutiya‘  or lines such as ‘Noch loon teri aankhen, kaat loon teri jib‘  in return only leaves you with a bad taste in the mouth. We aren’t dealing with that type of femme fatale in Ishqiya, not at least the type where you have a mad war
dance
and mutilate
your adversary
mad war dance and mutilate your adversary with a trishul. Ishqiya is more the type of a film where the women hold their own against the men, and not just bludgeon them with the nearest sharp object. Ramya Krishnan held her own against the biggest superstar in the south, in a movie that is still remembered by many for her lines and histrionics. Hell, she even had her own theme music which is incidentally my current ringtone! Well, that’s what I call a performance and she very nearly pwned everyone, in what is clearly one of the strongest written female characters in tamizh cinema. Earlier this week I saw Vidya balan receive an award for best actor(female) from the timeless Rekha. I mentioned to a friend that they looked like maa-beti during our live commentary on gtalk. Now that I think of it, she is the closest when it comes to continuing the legacy of the enigmatic Rekha. Who else in the current roster could pull of a salaam-e-ishq meri jaan or a dil cheez kya hain with elan. This also has nothing to do with the fact that they are both from the south, but only an ode to the raw sensuality that they exhibit with exuberance.

Well Ishqiya is that type of a film where are compelled to sit and analyze each frame as the characters have multiple layers like onions. You have the widow who seems meek and good at heart as she offers to help the duo, only to unravel the mystery of her true agenda in the later reels. She isn’t ashamed to use her charms on two unsuspecting fools for her gains, nor does she twitch when she is ready to go up in flames with her lover and a cylinder. Naseerudin Shah and Arshad warsi play a very jai-veeruish combo of mama-bhanjaa and come across are two very convincing thugs. It might seem a walk in the park for a thespian like Naseerudin Shah to play Khalujaan who is nefarious but longs for affection and is found delving into the past looking at a battered picture of an anonymous woman. Arshad Warsi is a revelation as a conniving horndog and his kohl-lined eyes add to his menacing character. Never has he looked this good apart from his circuit gig, but is eaten alive by the tamancha wielding widow who kicks ass! It’s a toss up between ‘mujhe is haraam zadi se ishq ho gaya hain‘ and ‘tumhara ishq ishq, aur humara ishq sex‘ for the best dialog of the movie, but there are plenty others that make you take notice. Despite being Abhishek Chaubey’s movie, every now and then the frames scream the name Vishal Bhardwaj and its not only the music, but also subtle nuances where references are made to hits like ‘Dhanno ki aankhon mein‘ and ‘Dil mein baji guitar‘. The movie however goes like a volcano in reverse, starts with an eruption and ends in fumes. We give it 6 out of 10 on our DappanKoothu scale.

(Images courtesy: sulekha.com)