What does one do when love strikes during times of war? And make no mistake. Elections time in a small dusty town of Uttar Pradesh is akin to war. Guns are fired randomly at enemies, real or imagined. Enemies fall to the ground. Morals lie crushed under heels. And finer feelings are buried under rubble of trouble.
Into this town, here named Almora, enters love on silent feet. Well, maybe not so silent. Ishaqzaade is a very noisy film. The hero Parma (debutant Arjun Kapoor) is an uncouth animal whose disgusting habits include kidnapping the town's nautch girl from a rival's party to dance at his grandfather's wedding. Later his moral temperature dips to an all-time low when he takes loathsome revenge on the girl he loves to hate.
As the Muslim girl Zoya, Parineeti Chopra fills the screen with a tempestuous charm. Natural spontaneous and vivacious she reminds you of the early Jaya Bhaduri. Her character is a sharp-shooter with a tongue to match. And when she gets brutally compromised by Parma she reacts like a wildcat raging against the promised full-cream milk that curdled when she was not looking.
Habib Faizal who made the mellow mild-mannered middleclass comedy Do Dooni Chaar about a college professor's dream of buying a scooter here shows a completely unexpected side to his cinematic vision. The landscape Habib paints in Almora is so volatile and violent, you pray for atonement for these characters.
The lovers don't exchange chaste glances and furtive kisses. They embrace passionately and smooch each other's lips off. And when they make love it seems they are waging war on the world. Full-blooded, voluptuous and eminently earthy, Ishaqzaade is a pickled aromatic rollercoaster ride through the badlands where blazing guns mean; families are at one another's throats.
The first-half of the narration builds up to an engrossing case for Parmar to inflict his uncouth and aggressive malevolence on Zoa. The confrontation scenes between the two, written with the right amount of zing and sting, are first-rate. Remarkably the adversaries-turned-lovers keep drawing attention to each other's religion without mincing words.The two religions are almost thrown at one another as taunts.
Riot or wrong, who can tell?
What Habib Faizal wants to say-and we would be better if we pay heed-is, it is imperative to address the Hindi-Muslim divide headlong, or else blood would continue to be spilt each time two people from different communities 'dare' to love each other.
"Don't even think of it. An Indo-Pak war will break out," the Muslim girl warns the Hindu boy. And then proceeds to break the self-imposed rule with a rush of rebellion and passion that seem to replicate the flow of adrenaline in the virile script.
Ishaqzaade is written in blood, dipped in passion, and shot in vivid colours of life, strife and other bitter embers of the communal fire. The director constantly attempts to bring alive the cluttered clamorous milieu of a lawless North Indian town. Faizal succeeds to a remarkable degree. His characters speak an easily recognizable language from the Uttar Pradesh's heartland where even daughters are taught to fire a gun before they learn the alphabet. The supporting characters don't fake it even for a second.
Many scenes convey warmth and empathy without a jot of self-consciousness. The characters are all played by unknown local UP actors who are born to the milieu. The director builds a believable arc of love and revenge. His lovers are so well-conceived on paper it would have taken two truly idiotic actors to ruin their characters. Luckily Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor are anything but incapable actors. They imbue the violent ambience with their own peculiar chemistry.
The bloodshed never stops, and the action is relentless. Hemant Chaturvedi's cinematography creates a world that is real and at the same time highly cinematic.
Life in Ishaqzaade is like that. It lets the central characters sort out the socio-political mess over which they have little control with the nozzle of guns. Habib Faizal enters the Muslim and Hindu protagonists' homes, discovers their affectionate core and then watches them, non-judgmentally, as they turn into blood-thirst revenge-seekers.
There are many reasons why Ishaqzaade is a remarkable film. It enters the killings fields of Uttar Pradesh. It chases down our two protagonists and then watches them get into a crisis with no end. In the end we are looking at two young vibrant people whom we love because they love one another irrespective of the differences.
This is not a film which offers a pretty love story with gentle love songs. Even the music (Amit Trivedi) sounds like a war cry. Apne hoton ki banshee bana le mujhe! As for Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor, never mind the destiny that lies in store for their characters in this film. They are here to stay.
More Pages: Ishaqzaade Box Office Collection , Ishaqzaade Movie Review
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