by Saayak Santra

There are not many black comedies in the realm of Bollywood. One of the reason for that may be that filmmakers do not think that black comedy goes hand to hand with the modes of storytelling from an Indian perspective, that it provides more of a European perspective towards life. Yet, Abhishek Chaubey, in his directorial debut, chose to go down that road.

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“Ishqiya” is a 2010 Indian black comedy film starring Naseeruddin Shah, Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and Salman Shahid in the lead roles. The film tells the story of two thieves, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi), who are on the run after stealing from their boss, Mushtaq. Khalujaan and Babban are uncle and nephew, and there is the added complication that Mushtaq is Khalujaan’s brother in law. Khalujaan tries to rely on this connection to escape Mushtaq’s murderous plans for revenge, but it seems that just being family isn’t enough, and along comes Krishna (Vidya Balan), the dusky shadow in this black comedy.

The story takes place in the dusty part of Uttar Pradesh, a province in India that still has some archaic laws. It is the conflict between the castes, between rich and poor, between gangsters and law, between inhabitants of different villages. In this setting, a tricky little story around love, revenge and intrigue, sometimes in the style of a comedy, a true shady dark sense of comedy, also unfolds. The parallels with the former begin with Vidya Balan’s role, which is designed like that of a femme fatale. You never know how the beauty is ticking and what is up next. Balan excels in this role.

Abhishek Chaubey, in his debut, manages to get the best from everyone involved. Performance-wise, the only niggling factor is Salman Shahid, who tries hard to deliver dialogues with a Marlon Brando style, which was totally unnecessary. Mohana Krishna’s cinematography gives the much-needed, rustic village look to the movie, as the story unfolds in a village in Northern India. Day to day chores and life in the villages is shown properly. Director never misses out the details.

Yet again, the combination of Gulzar (lyrics) and Vishal (music) create magic. We have excellent lyrics that take the movie forward. Again, most of the songs are played in the background, giving the movie a more realistic look, and the lyrics play a great part in unfolding the events during the song. Among the songs, “Dil to Bachacha hai” and “Ibn-e-batuta” stand out for some excellent lyrics and music. The dialogues are a combination of urdu and extremely pure Hindi, which add to giving the right feel to the movie (given that the setting is that of a village). As for the flaws, it has to be the last five minutes of the movie.

You can either hate it or be at peace with it–but for me it was the latter.