I know I watched Ishqiya – at the time I even wrote that I found it “entertaining” – but four years on I can’t remember anything about it. At the moment I can’t help but wonder if I should have re-watched it before watching its sequel, Dedh Ishqiya, and whether a re-watch would have helped me enjoy the sequel more. It was an okay one-time watch, but not something I think I will revisit.
First, the things that Dedh Ishqiya does well – the atmosphere is excellent. I loved the dusty palace of Para, the Begum of Mahmudabad (played by Madhuri Dixit) and the courtly ambience of the poetry competition. The costumes are great – I especially liked a pink sari Madhuri wears that has her straight-up channelling Maharani Gayatri Devi. The music is wonderful, but I wouldn’t expect any less from a Vishal Bharadwaj production. And the film makes good use of some supporting actors including Vijay Raaz, Vijay Raaz’s hair, and Manoj Pahwa.
However, the plot is incredibly predictable. And while I found Khalu and Babban amusing, the movie didn’t inspire me to root for them. I disliked how helpless the women seemed, despite the plot they get themselves involved in, and in particular the fact that Huma Qureshi (playing Begum Para’s companion Muniya) gets roughed up by more than one of the male characters disturbed me greatly. Finally, the movie implies a homosexual relationship between Begum Para and Muniya, but also wants us to believe that they both genuinely fall for Khalu and Babban. Some might call this nuanced, but for me it was just a cop-out. At the end of the film Begum Para and Muniya run to the car, then turn back and wave at Khalu and Babban to hurry up and join them, before the police appear and Begum Para and Muniya drive off leaving Khalu and Babban behind. I would have much preferred if Begum Para and Muniya had run to the car, gotten in, and driven away without looking back.