MOVING: Madhuri Dixit dances in Dedh Ishqiya.

Dedh Ishqiya
DIRECTOR: Abhishek Chaubey
CAST: Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah, Madhuri Dixit, Huma Quresh, Vijay Raaz, Shraddha Kapoor, Ravi Gosain, Bhuvan Arora
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
RATING: ****



IT’S a well-established trend to have a franchise or a sequel as a meritorious follow-up to a triumphant prequel. Last year ended on a high, with the third instalment of the lucrative Dhoom franchise rewriting the record books.

Now, a sequel to the likeable Ishqiya (2010) is out to woo the spectators – Dedh Ishqiya. But unlike most franchises/sequels, which have an urban back- drop, Dedh Ishqiya is set in the hinterland, has an unassuming, homespun feel and an olde worlde charm to it.

Cosmetically, the two films may be in the same space, but the stories contrast sharply. Abhishek Chaubey created an out-of-the-ordinary world in his directorial debut, Ishqiya.

The tale of a lovelorn and ruthless woman, Krishna (portrayed by Vidya Balan), who uses Khalujaan and Babban to settle scores, caught the attention of cineastes for varied reasons.

Besides a differing plot and an enthralling screenplay, that film had wit, conspiracy and romance that was unconventional and individualistic on the Hindi screen.

Dedh Ishqiya continues the escapades of Khalujaan and Babban, but the duo have an extremely desirable, sophisticated but secretive woman (Begum Para) and her confidant (Muniya) for company.

In addition, while the first part was a love triangle, with Khalujaan and Babban falling in love with Krishna, Dedh Ishqiya has two love stories running concurrently. Ishqiya was sharp, spicy and volatile, with impulsive characters and a storyline taking a somersault every few minutes. Dedh Ishqiya is no different.

It transports you to a diverse world, but like the first part, this one focuses on love and deceit as well.

Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit-Nene) of Mahmudabad is hosting a festival of poetry and music in her mansion. The country’s best poets are in town. Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah), posing as the Nawab of Chandpur, is participating as a poet in the festival.

He is not there merely to show off his poetic wares, but to impress the widowed Begum who, as the grapevine suggests, is scouting for a husband – preferably a poet. Babban (Arshad Warsi) arrives in Mahmudabad to take Khalujaan back to their old life, but his plans alter the moment he sets his eyes on Begum’s maid and confidant Muniya (Huma Qureshi), a brash and sexy young woman.

Muniya, too, has plans of her own. She leaves the palace every now and then in a disguise to meet gangsters in dark alleys. The palace is rife with intrigue…

Dedh Ishqiya maintains the element of mystery around the characters and its plot. Sure, one is familiar with Khalujaan and Babban, but the new characters that Abhishek Chaubey introduces us to in Dedh Ishqiya – Begum Para and Muniya specifically – are shrouded in secrecy/ambiguity.

Abhishek Chaubey deserves colossal admiration for taking the story forward by retaining some characters and adding several new ones. The screenplay is capricious and unpredictable, imparting a flavour that’s distinct and one you most certainly haven’t experienced before.

Also, a section of the audience may find the chaste Urdu a tad strenuous to comprehend (although the subtitles make it quite effortless to decipher), but come on, when you have a film based in Punjab or a south Indian state, the essence of that sector has to come to the forefront, right?

Expectedly, Naseeruddin Shah is supremely efficient as Khalujaan. Getting into the skin of the character, the actor gives his all to the film, delivering a performance that’s sure to be recalled among his premium works.

Matching Naseer is Madhuri Dixit-Nene, a powerhouse of talent. Cast in an unconventional role, it’s a colossal leap for the actress who has several power-packed performances in her repertoire. She also deserves kudos for opting for an unconventional, avant-garde character, which will only win her tremendous admiration and honour in times to come.

Arshad Warsi is in terrific form yet again. The actor, a spontaneous performer, wows you with his brilliant act. In fact, Naseer and Arshad are a delight to watch in several sequences, with both complementing each other from commencement to conclusion.

Huma Qureshi is fantastic and catches you with complete surprise. Her sequences with Naseer, Madhuri and Arshad reaffirm that she can stand on her feet, despite being pitted against top-notch actors.

Yet another performance that stays with you is that of Vijay Raaz – one of the finest talents around. I am sure Dedh Ishqiya will make the film fraternity realise you cannot ignore him for long. Salman Shahid is top-notch in a cameo. Ravi Gosain does a decent job. Manoj Pahwa registers a solid impact.

On the whole, Dedh Ishqiya is a worthy follow-up to the widely admired Ishqiya. Powerful writing, superb direction and outstanding performances make the film a must-watch. –