‘Wajah Hai Isaq’: Dedh Ishqiya to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
A carefully composed “choice of pains”. Yes, that’s what strikes you about Dedh Ishqiya as you watch Madhuri Dixit and Huma Qureshi drive off into the sunset, trailing clouds of dust, in a crumbling Maruti 800.
Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, starved of love, are mere onlookers here — faces pinched with a strange pathos that is ostensibly self-aware. Their lady loves leave them behind, ready to resurrect a world of their own, where time spent with each other is not a crafty loot, shop-lifted from permissible desires.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, we’ve now got our eyes on you.
Bollywood’s tight-fisted history with same-sex love stories calls for a toast to the mainstream flick that still hasn’t been snuffed out of memory.
Ironically, one realises in hindsight, that Dedh Ishqiya did start off with Khalujaan and Babban — played by Shah and Warsi — on the run with considerable loot in tow - the stolen necklace from Hyderabad. This is the very necklace that allows Begum Para and Muniya — played by Madhuri Dixit and Huma Qureshi — to come into some money that enables them to finally set up a life of their own.
Dedh Ishqiya is anything but explicit. It manages to skilfully oscillate between the real and the seeming, keeping one hooked to the possible spectrum of emotions between the pairs — Khalujaan and Begum Para, Babban and Muniya, Muniya and Begum Para.
While the volatile chemistry between Begum Para and Khalujaan, on one hand, and Muniya and Babban, on the other hand, keeps you hooked, tables are turned with tragi-comic force when Begum and Muniya pull a fast one on the two men, concoct a kidnapping, and, finally, drive off together into the sunset, leaving the two men high and dry.
With carnivalesque cackles, they skid along the plot with slapstick speed breakers, sometimes in the form of a menacing boss threatening to castrate them for not delivering on promises or, at other times, in the form of a local MLA gangster, Jaan Mohammed, threatening to take them down in order to win over Begum Para.
The swirling silhouettes, moods, and emotions are nuanced to the tee — a majestic, Nawabi artfulness that serves almost as a counter to Babban and Khalujaan’s rollicking ways and anything-but-subtle professions of love.
A glance here, a touch of a hand there — Begum Para and Muniya’s love is never doused with a label. Director Abhishek Chaubey hits the jackpot here. The thumris, shayaris, and verses usher in a tehzeeb that never lets go of the urge to simply move along with the way things are unfolding, instead of seeking a fast resolution.
There are references to the seemingly imperceptible.
“Lihaaf maang le, thand lag rahi hai,’’ remarks Khalujaan towards the end as he watches Begum and Muniya share a light moment. Ismat Chughtai’s 1942 short-story Lihaaf is immediately brought to mind, that centres around the relationship between Begum Jaan and her masseuse, Rabbo.
There is another scene where Babban tries to woo Muniya and the conversation, a seemingly regular back and forth, playfully centres around Muniya’s preferences. “Kya pasand hai mujhe?” cavorts Muniya, hiding back a smile.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga hits the theatres today, and if Dedh Ishqiya’s to-each-her-own brand of storytelling is a cue, then we have quite a lot to look forward to!