Cast: Prateik Babbar,Amyra Dastur,Ravi Kishan,Rajeshwari Sachdev,Prashant Narayanan,Neena Gupta,Sudhir Pande,Makarand Deshpande,Vineet Kumar
Director: Manish Tiwary
The Indian Express ratings: *1/2
After the recent Raanjhanaa,Varanasi is back in focus in this weeks Issaq,as the setting for a love story based on Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet. But neither the town nor the author would be grateful for this representation,which stays consistently high-pitched and doused in blood and bullets and melodrama.
I had hopes from the colour-saturated beginning,because everything sprang up with such vividness. The picturesque Banaras,which never dims despite a million sightings. The young man,who like all young men,is desirous. The girl who has a freshness to her. But within a few minutes,it was clear that Issaq was going to layer the love story with high decibels,and a constant rampage of characters.
Rahul (Babbar) sees Bachchi (Dastur) during a riotous holi celebration at her haveli,and is instantly smitten. But these two belong to warring families,the Kashyaps and the Mishras. We know this because of the bristling bandooks on display every time there is a skirmish between the two parties. But the story never tells us what the enmity is about. Not only does the plot gloss over this point,it also doesnt tell us why Bachchis family is on display so much of the time,with so little given over to Rahuls. It could well be because the girls side is full of such colourful types as a sloping-towards-old-age father (Pande) whose second,young wife (Sachdev) has the hots for the first wifes virile brother (Kishan); the boy,on the other hand,seems to spend all his time lolling about with his two friends,when he is not running after the girl.
In the increasingly convoluted second half,even the remaining coherence curdles. A bunch of rifle-toting hoods,led by a muttering fellow (Narayanan) keep showing up and shooting people and shouting lal salaam: this thread hangs from its entry to its exit. A ganja-smoking guru (Deshpande) who keeps doing the invisible rope trick (a Banaras film without a levitating baba on the steps of the ghats? impossible),much to the deliriousness of his bhakts,is also an important participant in the proceedings. And so on it goes,till the tragic end.
Babbar has a smile that lights up his face,but he never really fits in with the milieu the film is striving for,and his passionate lover dissipates after initial promise. The new girl is pretty but patchy,sometimes getting the tone right,and sometimes not. Kishan,bristling with machismo,is so over-the-top that he consumes himself. And the rest of the good acting back-up,Kumar as the friend-of-the-hero,Sachdev as the lustful second wife,Narayannan as the evil Maoist leader,and Gupta as the dai-ma-of-the-heroine,are gobbled by the contortions of the plot.
Tiwarys earlier film,Dil Dosti Etc,which was situated in Delhi University,showed he had a sense of place,and an ear for smart dialogue. Issaq sounds like so many of the other recent UP-as-badlands films,without a singular voice of its own. Finally,it drowns in its own noise.