I don't know what is the problem with critics. Some are calling this film sexist, others are calling it a film that goes awry in the second half. Well, guys, why can't you enjoy the show with popcorn and hankies? Why can't you guys join in the fun with whistles and applause? This is after all a romantic film coming from Yash Raj Films and in fact, I found this film way, way better than most of the mediocre stuff rolled out every week.
Indeed, by most virtues, Ishaqzaade is a romantic film that roped me completely in. I remember being awed by 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' as the last romantic film which I found entertaining on every time I watched it. 'Ishaqzaade', despite a somewhat tried-and-tested premise, turns out to be a rather unconventional romance. Far from being a breezy tale of romance set in idyllic locations, the film is instead set in small-town UP where there is little or no respite from the constant strife.
Political rivalry rules the town of Almore and right from the word 'Go', writer-director Habib Faisal dives in and shows us the lawless land from differing perspectives. The political families Chauhans and Qureshis squabble over matters as trivial as cans of diesel or a prostitute performing in social gatherings. Clearly, Faisal sets up the setting with an eye for detail and ear for rapid-fire wit. This is a land of generators running on diesel, a house populated predominantly with men, handguns that can be bought as easily as earrings and a strange world where a brothel is the safest place to hide from vested, self-centered malevolence.
Indeed, the scramble for Almore's throne decides the fortunes of our unlike eponymous couple. In the gruff and unkempt Parma and the spunky Zoya, Faisal gives us a couple that will remain in our memory for a long time to come. Both run wild, both sport handguns like mobile phones and both are a cause of concern for their families. Parma's aging, wizened grandfather reprimands him for his errant ways while Zoya is restrained by her elders from going blazing. By assigning each credible character development, dialogs bursting with wit and local dialect, Faisal makes the characters look as real and rusty as the steel revolvers they sport. And the pair is equally deadly.
Faisal ratchets up a terrific chemistry between his leads. He lets the romance progress in an unpredictable format. There is betrayal involved but then again, Faisal pairs the duo together as they flee from people hell-bent on killing them. It is remarkably like the clever rapport we saw in 'Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid' as well as 'Bonnie And Clyde'. As in those films, Faisal keeps the chemistry sparky while creating an authentic background as well.
The film reeks of the flavor of UP but Faisal keeps the ingredients superbly in balance while the romance crackles. Faisal touches a number of sensitive themes like the religious disparity, social stigma and political opportunism and the resulting mix thickens the plot and makes the film authentic and realistic. And there is always the fiery pairing to keep us thrilled.
As Parma, Arjun Kapoor makes a stellar debut. He captures the small-town, grungy essence perfectly in his body language and the gritty dialog delivery rocks. He embodies the scoundrel perfectly while his change of heart is also believable later. Parineeti Chopra, as Zoya, exudes a natural confidence and enthusiasm that sets the stage on fire. Under Faisal's capable directorial hand, she performs freely, blazing her dialogs and yet being vulnerable as well.
Faisal's direction sparkles in other places as well. The action and romantic sequences are shot with energy while the drama is captured realistically without sinking into melodrama. Faisal keeps the pace steady and balanced as well and crafts the film with his trademark flair for detail. Amit Trivedi's music is alternately zingy and poetic, while Hemant Chaturvedi's visuals capture the small-town sights and locations with grittiness.
On a whole, Ishaqzaade is not just a film. It is a sensation. It overwhelms you and leaves you thrilled.
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