In the company of women

In the company of women
Yamini Lohia

‘Dedh Ishqiya’ is groundbreaking in the way it frames female friendship.

Beyond the characters of Babban (Arshad Warsi) and Khalujan (Naseeruddin Shah), the loveable rogues whose adventures drive the narratives of both of Abhishek Chaubey’s hinterland black comedies, the thematic thread that binds the two Ishqiya films together is the subtle (for Bollywood) examination of female desire and sexuality. Specifically, both Krishna (played by Vidya Balan) in Ishqiya and Munniya (Huma Qureshi) in the sequel are unapologetic about exploiting sexual intimacy to manipulate men into doing their bidding, and are evidently well capable of separating sex and love (even if the male patsy is not). This isn’t exactly revolutionary — after all, the noirish femme fatale is a cherished trope in popular culture of all stripes — but it is notable if only for the fact that the two women go pretty much unpunished for their alleged betrayals of the purported male lead. In Bollywood, it remains progressive for the narrative to categorise a woman with a sexual appetite as anything other than vamp; it is rarer still for such transgressive female characters to not repent or go otherwise unpunished by the narrative by losing their lives, lovers, or both.

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2 Responses to “In the company of women”

  1. Interesting read. If the writer is on the money this would make it a better film than the first one. Looking forward to this now much more than I had so far.

    • I wish though that you (and others) would have seen the film before reading this- the ‘relationship’ between the two female characters was pretty much the hook of the film and Chaubey cleverly keeps this bit under the wraps for almost two-thirds of the film. It’s only in the last 30 minutes do we realise what’s going between the two women.

      Is this a better film than the first one? Yes and No. The caper part here is far weaker compared to the first part- this one, in trying to be a ‘sequel’, has most of its caper sequences (kidnappings, double and triple crossings) modelled almost exactly along the lines of the first part so you can pretty much see every twist coming from far away. Also while Madhuri does have her moments here (especially in the dance sequence), hers isn’t a patch on Vidya’s performance. I actually thought that the rest of the cast performed better than her here and that’s probably because that while she is enough of a star to pull this act through, her performance never becomes persuasive because she was wrong for this femme fatale part IMO.

      But Dedh Ishqiya’s pleasures lie somewhere else which this piece as well as An Jo’s has described in detail- both Naseer and Arshad’s character become far more interesting here, the Hindu and Urdu word-play itself becomes a character, the bevy of supporting characters are terrific (with Vijay Raaz threatening to steal every scene he is in) and the film is gorgeously shot (perhaps the best film to come out of Bharadwaj’s stable after Kaminey in this regard). And then there is of course the relationship between the two women

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