They say a 'rose by any other name remains a rose'. Likewise, William Shakespeare's timeless classic 'Romeo and Juliet' by any other name will always arouse tremendous curiosity. The tragedy of two young, star-crossed lovers has always provided fodder to many films [Bollywood/Hollywood]. As a matter of fact, there have been many adaptations and inspirations of this eternal love story. Director Manish Tiwary's ISSAQ is no different. He has tried to illustrate the innocence of romance against the backdrop of violence and hatred.
Shakespeare or no Shakespeare, films like QAYAMAT SE QAYAMAT TAK and the much recent ISHAQZAADE are examples of love blooming between the offspring of two warring families. On his own admission, Manish claims his ISSAQ to be an adaptation of 'Romeo & Juliet'. He does succeed in bringing out the essence of the love story that is set against the backdrop of the sand mafia and the dreaded Naxalites, but the film appeals in bits and spurts, not in entirety!
The story is set in Banaras and its neigbouring areas that are witness to violence unleashed by sand mafia controlled by two warring factions -- Mishras and Kashyaps. Kashyap has an 18-year old, pretty daughter Bachchi [Amyra Dastur] from his first wife, while Mishra's son Rahul [Prateik] is a good-looking teenager with predictable interests for a boy of his background -- girls and guns. Things change when Rahul and Bachchi fall in love. Disregarding the consequences, the young lovers choose to go ahead with the diktats of their heartsâ€¦
ISSAQ banks heavily on guns and violence, as is the demand of the script. Even though the screenplay tilts towards the blooming romance of the lovebirds, it's actually the gun-yielding men and the scheming woman [aptly played by Rajeshwari Sachdeva], who tend to leave an everlasting impact.
What is good about not just the film but also Bollywood is the fact that rather than investing heavily on foreign locales, it has now started discovering the stunning locales within India itself. Besides Delhi, Wai and other locales, Banaras seems to have caught the fancy of our storytellers, with films like RAANJHANAA, YAMLA PAGLA DEEWANA-2 [partly], besides several others, being filmed in this vibrant city. Even in ISSAQ, the locations and the camerawork is something that stays with you much after the film has concluded.
Even though the territory of the script is known to all, it's the screenplay that keeps the film moving frame by frame. The narrative does get lengthy and stretched at times, courtesy the loose editing at places. Had the editing been crisper, it would have left an indelible impression for sure. While the first half of the film is slow moving and uneven, the post-interval portions are a bit stretched. In fact, the film gathers momentum only after the attacks on Amit Sial and Ravi Kishan. The soundtrack is commonplace, with the title track leaving an impression.
Of the cast, Prateik isn't entirely persuasive. A bit more conviction would've only made a vast difference to his performance. Although this is Amyra's debut film, she shows immense promise. A few right films and she could just be the face/name to watch out for. The director has truly succeeded to extract the maximum out of her facial innocence. Amongst the rest of the cast, while Neena Gupta is just about okay, it is Ravi Kishan [terrific], Prashant Narayan [convincing], Makrand Deshpande [super], Sudhir Pandey [competent], Vineet Kumar Singh [perfect], Prashant Kumar [proficient] and Amit Sial [first-rate] who stand out. Rajeshwari Sachdeva is top notch.
On the whole, ISSAQ is absorbing and convincing in parts, not in entirety. The final outcome could've been even more impactful had it not been stretched.