Friday, January 29, 2010



Anyone eavesdropping into conversations at a Press watering hole in the capital, would get their ears smouldering with gossip, and enough stories for ten thrillers. That’s why Ram Gopal Varma’s much tom-tommed media-bashing film is so disappointing. There is enough for the media to get bashed over, and a filmmaker who did a good job would get the eternal admiration of journalists as well as the public. But, sadly, instead of wielding a mean whip, Varma just manages a tepid version of the fabulous 1986 film New Delhi Times (by Ramesh Sharma). And there was a copyright battle over this?

The link between politics and the media is much more complex that Varma’s simplistic good politician-bad politician, good media baron-bad media baron duel, with a smirking industrialist (with a brother problem, get it?) hanging around, adding fuel to the bonfire.

Vijay Harshvardhan Malik (Amitabh Bachchan) is the upright head of a news channel, whose principles have wrecked the TRPs, while unscrupulous rival Amrish Kakkar (Mohnish Behl) is getting ahead. Varma’s idea of a TV channel is: one boss (Bachchan), one reporter Purab (Ritiesh Deshmukh), one clown (Rajpal Yadav) and one CEO (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi)—none of the urgency and chaos of daily news reporting.

Malik’s hotheaded son Jai (Sudeep) wants so badly to succeed that he cuts a deal with evil politician Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal) and persuades his father to run an unsubstantiated clip, implicating the prime minister (KK Raina) in a scandal that rocks the government. Good journo Purab decides to investigate and exposes the game—with a device as simple as a sting in which the victim merrily narrates the whole conspiracy!

As a very elementary thriller, Rann is fine—but as an expose of the wheeling dealing that goes in power circles, it’s a joke. And the scenes are laughably hokey—would a man bribing a mole in the rival organization bribe via a cheque in a public place? Would an industrialist (Rajat Kapoor) supporting a politician, always hang around him like a flunkey? Would a man use a close friend to shoot a fake video? Would an experienced journalist not be able to smell a fake? Why are so many unimportant characters either rewarded with close ups (Pandey’s silent henchman, his mother) or needless footage (the girlfriends, Gul Panag, Neetu Chandra)?

What the film really wants to convey, is finally done with Amitabh Bachchan’s splendidly delivered, searing monologue in the end. An actor like him, who can convey pages of written emotions with just a look, is surrounded by hams—Sudeep who can’t do without a cigarette as a prop, Paresh Rawal who overacts in the old ‘Madras’ style, Rajat Kapoor, who throws in a collection of sneers and grimaces. Only Riteish Deshmukh underplays and manages to portray sincerity.

Far from being a Rann (battle), this one is more like a bout of arm-wrestling in the neighbourhood pub.


Abhishek Chaubey is Vishal Bhardwaj’s protégé and the Omkara-Kaminey director’s stamp is visible on Ishqiya. Since the original inspirations are Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, this film obviously doffs a hat to the masters of low-life—change the actors and the film could well be set in a dusty Mexican town.

That said, Ishqiya gets the Uttar Pradesh milieu and the salty language of the badlands just right. And like a good Elmore Leonard plot (though this one may have been inspired by Hollywood’s The Big Bounce), there are complications, lies, deceit, a femme fatale and a kind of loyal love.

Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi), an uncle-nephew duo of petty criminals, dodging a murderous don they have swindled, take refuge in the dilapidated home of Krishna (Vidya Balan), recently widowed. Their money gets stolen, they are trapped in dusty Gorakhpur and at the mercy of Krishna’s convoluted plan of kidnapping a steel trader.

Needless to add, since it always happens in films like this, both men fall for Krishna—Khalujaan tries the wooing with music and old-world charm, while Babban is more direct. But the lady has plans of her own. The humour is often bawdy—like the kidnap victim’s secret life—but not offensively so. The language, though coarse, won’t make the viewer wince, and the violence is not excessive or gratuitous.

The film dutifully follows the conventions of the genre, Chaubey comes up with a leisurely paced, and conveniently contrived script. Ishqiya is fun while it lasts, with its look-at-me cockiness, but not a film one remembers or even wants to discuss afterwards. Still, it is an assured debut, there is a sense of camaraderie that comes through between Shah and Warsi—like the actors were really enjoying themselves and trusted the director to bring out their best. Vidya Balan is surprisingly good, and manages the shifts of mood from playful to sombre to aggressive very well, without dropping her slightly sloppy village woman manner—she doesn’t even attempt the Northern accent, though, which the other characters adopt so easily. Nicely shot, with some pleasing music, Ishqiya is watchable, though probably not an absolutely-must-see.


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