Saturday, July 27, 2013


Lots in a Name

Benaras has become the hottest new destination for Bollywood filmmakers. Setting a film in a North Indian town allows for the use of piquant colloquial language, a lot of colour, ritual and violence; the general perception is that in the Hindi belt gangsters can commit mass murder in the middle of the marketplace, and the cops won't even wake up.

Manish Tiwary's version of Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet is set in the world of  Ishaqzaade, Raanjhanaa, and the films of Prakash Jha, Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap, which seems to ensure some kind of success-- critical if not commercial. 

In Issaq, the warring clans are the local sand-mining Mafia (talk of uninspiring!), who go about shooting at each other with impunity. In all this uncontrolled mayhem, the tender love story between two youngsters is lost.  In fact Romeo Rahul Mishra (Prateik) is a gun-toting lout, who is having an affair with a white woman (Evelyn Sharma). There goes sympathy for the romantic young man who falls for Juliet Bachchi Kashyap (Amyra Dastur---miscast) at first glance on Holi day and then spends a lot of time jumping over rooftops or chatting with her on the phone.

Tiwary introduces needless sub-plots and characters who have no place in the story-- Bachchi's stepmother (Rajeshwari Sachdev doing a Rekha), having an affair with her uncle (Ravi Kisshen), Rahul's paan-chewing buddies, a bewigged minister, and, worse of all a 'Lal Salaam' spouting Kerala Naxalite (Prashant Narayan), who is not just extraneous to the story, but to the Benaras as well.

If there's any character who somehow fits the milieu, it's the chillum-smoking, levitating Sadhu (Makrand Deshpande) whose scenes cause unintended giggles because the screen says  he is "smoking herbs, not tobacco." 

This must be the most chaotic, charmless, passionless version of Romeo And Juliet ever made. Not a single performance, tune, line or scene stands out, pity about the rich production design and cinematography wasted on such a dud.


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