Perhaps the best thing about Dedh Ishqiya is the completely different world it takes you into. It is one of those films that delivers everything you’d expect from your regular masala fare – comedy, a love triangle, deceit, suspense, and (of course) a bit of dishoom-dishoom. The difference is that Dedh Ishqiya does this all in a more organic and much quieter manner – and without insulting anyone’s intelligence. A welcome change, especially since, as of late, we’ve been faced with big-budget, masala films that thrive on their extravagance. But Dedh Ishqiya lets the story (written by Darab Farooqi) do the talking for itself, without relying on any unnecessary gimmicks to make an impact.
And what a story it is, too: Khalujan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) are two small-time con men who end up in the midst of a swayamvar in the town of Mahmudabad. There, Khalujan (pretending to be the Nawab, Iftikhar) has to win over Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit) by proving he is a great shayar.
This swayamvar is filled with a variety of interesting characters, such as Muniya (Huma Qureshi), Begum Para’s lady-in-waiting; Jaan Mohammed (Vijay Raaz), an MLA who will do almost anything to win Para over; and Nur Mohammad Italvi (Manoj Pahwa), a poet who has been kidnapped for the sole purpose of feeding Jaan Mohammed some winning poetry. It’s not long before it becomes clear that everyone has an agenda of their own, and things may not be exactly what they look like.
These different characters really work, though, only because of the fact that they have been written so well. Vishal Bhardwaj and director Abhishek Chaubey ensure that each one has been developed properly, and are supported by fantastic performances across-the-board by all the actors. There’s no fault to be found with any performance; in fact, it’s hard to pick the best one of the lot just because they all worked perfectly as a team. (If forced to pick, though, I’d say Arshad Warsi impressed me the most. What a great performance! Vijay Raaz, too, is really good in this film – and man, what glorious hair. I need to know who his stylist on set was.)
What makes it even better is all the wit peppered through the film. There are some seriously funny moments, like the scene when Khalujan and Babban reach a stalemate with Jaan Mohammed and his goons, where neither party is willing to lower their guns. Vishal Bhardwaj is also unmatched as a dialogue writer, and he really knocks it out of the park with this one (especially when Khalujaan and Babban discuss the seven stages of love). Add to that the Urdu (during the interval, a fellow journalist proclaimed that it was a “treat” to “hear this language” after the slew of films we’ve had), the poetry, Madhuri Dixit dancing, the costumes, the cinematography… and you can see why Dedh Ishqiya is such a great, refreshing treat.
Definitely worth a watch!