It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Karan Anshuman (Filmmaker/movie critic),
Karan Anshuman is a film critic for Mumbai Mirror. He's worked on a bunch of movie projects, none of which you've ever seen...yet! He's a history, photography, squash, web 2.0, food, and gaming enthusiast who would trade his soul to travel the world.
ISHAQZAADE: Love's Labours Lost
Director: Habib Faisal; Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra
Ishaqzaade, set in the heartland, twists Romeo and Juliet using classic Hindi film components (especially that pillar of unshakeable morality called ‘ma’) to tell a story you’ve heard and seen before, but one that still manages to surprise with bursts of inspiration and originality. Even though the film builds up to an intriguing interval point--at which there may be only vague and excited speculation as to what happens next--the effort is squandered away owing to a feeble screenplay.
The Montagues and Capulets in Ishaqzaade are two warring patriarchal political parties--crucially, Hindu and Muslim--whose offspring want nothing more than to destroy each other and use everything they have in their arsenal: stones, guns, words. The pivotal scene in which they fall in love takes place in a decrepit college girl’s bathroom. This is Habib Faisal’s genius right here: deftly weaving dichotomy and making the absurd seem reasonable. He does this with flair: giving us a Shakespearean balcony setup with contrary results, opting for silences when much is to be said, comparing brothels to the state, having us hate the lead man as he makes light of serious transgressions only to turn up in a gaudy tie for a wedding making him look like a puppy we could play with all day.
The Romeo--called Parma in this version--is the centerpiece character who makes all key decisions. Juliet--Zoya--with her sharp tongue and foolhardy ambitions has more atypical characteristics and coupled with Parineeti Chopra’s performance provides a deceitful, hollow balance. The truth is that for all of Zoya’s moxie, she’s still the clichéd rural Indian Bollywood woman: overemotional and easily forgiving. What if Faisal reversed the roles? What if it were the woman who is truly treacherous and unlikable? What if with painstaking perfection Faisal managed to turn those qualities into strengths that an audience would sympathize with and be won over in the end? I’d wager it’d result in the difference between a decent film and a great one.
Despite the second half derailing, Ishaqzaade is watchable for many reasons. Once again, Faisal optimizes the use of actual locations to depict a fictional tiny town of UP called Almore. He shoots fluidly; often opting for single shot takes in important scenes to give the performers their space (they’re both very new after all). Mukund Gupta’s art direction is detailed and importantly, accurate. Kausar Munir (lyrics) and Amit Trivedi (music) team up to give us a film album after a long time where every song is fresh (without being unorthodox) and easy on the ears.
And finally, the main reason to watch Ishaqzaade: Parineeti Chopra. In the second half of the film Faisal makes a curious decision: for about 15 minutes of screen time he makes Zoya go from angry tigress slashing at everything in her path to smiling subdued kitten. Putting immense faith in his actress, the director doesn’t allow Zoya to speak a word. All Chopra has at her disposal are her expressions and body language. She pulls it off so convincingly and in such a subtle way, few would even notice she accomplishes this in silence. Rare is such talent with such little exposure. I only hope she’s not typecast into the feisty, bubbly slot and experiments.
So yes, Ishaqzaade is watchable for most part, but brace for disappointment in the second-half when a manipulative screenplay gets in the way and hampers the chance of this movie ending up first-rate.
THE FOREST: Shooting from the Hip
Director: Ashvin Kumar; Cast: Ankur Vikal, Jaaved Jaffery, Nandana Sen
Oscar-nominated director Ashvin Kumar’s feature film, The Forest, has taken nearly half a decade to make it to the screen after it was said to be completed. Time has not been kind to this tale of an unhappily married couple spending a night in Kumaon’s jungle reserve that bristles with the angst of equally unhappy wildlife and forest officials.
The crux of The Forest is blurry. Posturing as a wildlife conservation plug, the film--save for the opening and end credit titles and a smattering of dialogue--almost never touches upon the subject of human encroachment affecting animal (in this case a man-eating leopard) behavior. Even Corbett had his battles in the wild that he wrote about 70 years ago; I’m all for animals in the nature vs man war, but The Forest only pays lip service and tries too hard to make a point when only armed with a weak storyline. Any Nat Geo docu would do a far more serviceable job in this regard.
So if it’s not the fauna we’re to care for, it’s the humans who have our attention: A lascivious triangle that reunites after years goes from hellos to a roll in the hay in a cinematically jerky, uncomfortable manner devoid of sensitivity. You get the sense that there is some larger trope at play here but when weighed in against the rather elemental approach in the third act to a group of people trapped in a space and fending themselves from a peckish leopard, you’re not so sure where the movie stands. A case for the beast within men fighting a literal form without or loose scripting and resultant pretention? The scale eventually tilts towards the latter.
Certainly, there is effort to be acknowledged: the leopard has been flown in from France; the wildlife has been photographed by pros (though this means there are only a handful of shots where animals and humans share the same frame); the visuals are offbeat; and because the film is set mostly after dark, shooting nights relentlessly in a real forest must’ve been no easy task.
Ankur Vikal and Nandana Sen fare far better than Jaaved Jafferi whose English dialogue delivery is incomprehensible. In a prelude scene, local kids recite lines as if they’ve been caught unprepared after being asked to recite a poem in the classroom. Kumar hasn’t been able to reign in his actors effectively.
The Forest has a complex thought, an extraordinary setting, and a noble intent but it ultimately fails to fulfill any of this tremendous potential.
DANGEROUS ISHQ: Old Drama, New Bottle
Director: Vikram Bhatt; Cast: Karisma Kapoor, Rajneesh Duggal
Rated U/A 2 stars
You’ve got to hand it to Vikram Bhatt. At least he tries. If he’s going to cast Rajneish Duggal in every film he’s going to make, he has to rely on alternative tricks to work box office magic. Once again he’s opted for what is now common terminology: a high-concept film. As a major bonus, Bhatt has convinced Karisma Kapoor to return from hibernation and centered the film on her, pairing her opposite (presumably) the much younger Duggal.
Dangerous Ishq (a title of little relevance) traverses time as two souls in various eras spanning 500 years reincarnate to unite in every lifetime. As a one-line idea for a mainstream film, this is nothing short of groundbreaking. If you imagine a historical interwoven with present day drama with elements of mysticism and mystery you wouldn’t be too far off track. In fact, if Bhatt had stayed true to this unique genre and held back from introducing every conceivable populist element and cliché, DI could’ve been a perfectly watchable good film. But the writer shops in a convenience store for screenplay parts when the going gets even mildly tricky and by the time the exhausting film ends, your attentions are solely focused on trying to discern what has changed about Karisma Kapoor’s face in all these years.
So you have a very plastic romance: always scripted, never felt; words, not emotions. You have old-fashioned drama--identifiable characters you’ve all seen before: the traitor, the bullheaded cop, the father who rejects the supermodel girlfriend, the literal witch. And you have symmetry--in the story as the souls keep swapping religious identities, and in the 3D visuals.
The decision to shoot Dangerous Ishq in 3D has not been taken lightly. At a time when B movies fumble to even keep an image in focus, Bhatt plans his shots well and maximizes the use depth--3D’s most critical element. Still, at most times it washes over you and seems all pointless save for a couple of moments involving blasts and debris when it becomes effective. It’s got novelty value and might bring a few additional people into theaters, but that’s about it. The VFX are below par and this is the first time I’ve seen background music used to cover up tackiness.
Karisma Kapoor makes an ‘entry’ like the stars of old-school Bollywood as she walks the ramp. The fact that you also see her eventually as a Rajput dasi in the 1500s with several avatars in between is testament to the fact that she’s worked hard. Acting is a skill you can lose without practice.
With Dangerous Ishq all you get is a new concept but the focus is solely on style. The film is bereft of substance and the only reason you might want to watch it is if you’re a Karisma fan and have been wishing for her return to the big screen.
For more Bollywood reviews by Karan Anshuman, click here
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