Just as Dedh Ishqiya saw much critical acclaim from all and sundry, film enthusiast Dipashri Bardhan writes to us about her feelings about the film. The lady brings instances about Ismat Chugtai’s short story and how Bollywood is coming of age and speaks the unsaid. Here we go :
Prelude: That was a warm afternoon of Spring, 2005. Sitting in the verandah of my Kolkata house, I was reading ‘Amar Meyebela’ (My Girlhood) – an autobiography by Taslima Nasrin. My marriage date got fixed just a couple of weeks back. Since I had to move to Bangalore shortly, I’d started reading Bengali books from a local library as much as I could, fearing that in Bangalore I won’t have much opportunity to read Bengali books. Right from my adolescent days, Taslima was my favourite writer & by that time, I finished reading all of her earlier literary works where she wrote about her life, love for different men, emotions. That day I was also enjoying the book till I reach that page, where she first wrote about her lesbian inclination.
Dedh Ishqiya: Though my first reaction was like, ‘ufff…Taslima, you too ?’, but soon I realized what made her enjoy the company of that particular woman she wrote about there. This article is not about Taslima, so better not to continue it with her story. In the recently released film Dedh Ishqiya , the homosexuality of its leading women again lightens up the Conventional versus Controversial mentality. Frankly speaking, I didn’t like the film since I expected more realistic enigma from it, just like ‘Ishqiya‘ had showcased. Also Vidya Balan’s portrayal of ‘Krishna’ in Ishqiya was far more seductive than Madhuri Dixit’s portrayal of ‘Begum Para’ in the sequel, I opine. The screenplay was not tight, story lacked realistic touch in many sequences, climax looked half baked. But, leaving the negative points aside, there are few factors which make the film worth watching. Lets throw light on those macroscopic delights.
A) The mind blowing chemistry between Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) is the highlight of the plot. Well supported by Vijay Raaz as Jaan Mohammad the film is full of funny dialogues and hilarious scenes. Dr. Bashir Badr’s poetry gives an aesthetic touch to the story when it comes from the lips of Begum Para & Khalujaan. The reverse is also there. For example, when it comes from Jaan Mohammad and his associates. Glimpses:
1) Jaan Mohammad forces Nawab Italwi (a poet, played by Manoj Pahwa) to write poetry for him so that he can amuse Begum Para. Italwi says, he cannot write so many out-of-the-world poems in such a short span. The other attendants of Jaan Mohammad puts a bottle of Liquor in front of him and asked, “Baraf chahiye ?”
Jaan’s associates: “Pehle haraf, phir baraf” !
2) A fighting scene between Jaan Mohammad’s gang and Khalujaan-Babbar, where Babbar puts pistol in Jaan Mohammad’s head, then another shayari comes up: ‘Jab haat me pistol ho, toh sher para nahi jata, mara jata hain’ !
3) Babbar trying to impress Muniya (Huma Qureshi) with his thought, “ladkiya chipkali se darti hain aur noodles pe marti hain” !
Along with this, the gorgeous Set Design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray (including the crumbling havelis in Mahmoodabad, Awadh), Pandit Birju Maharaj’s Choreography in the ‘Jagaave saari raina’ song and Remo D’souza’s Choreography in the ‘Humri atariya’ song, appropriate Action and stunts (thanks to Pradyumna Kumar Swain) & captivating lyrics by Gulzar give Dedh Ishqiya a classy touch.
B) The subtlety of the lesbian relationship between Begum Para (widowed Begum of Mahmudabad) and her assistant Muniya paints the actual romantic chromaticity here, among all possible romantic angles, like Begum Para-Khalujaan, Begum Para-Jaan Mohammad, Babbar-Muniya. Amazing is the word to describe the scene where the hint was first given through a huge shadow play – Silhouettes of Begum dancing, Munniya’s shadow coming close to her, touching and tickling her waist, laughing at each other, finally becoming one shadow and then suddenly a pin drop silence, followed by an indicative dialogue by Khalujaan – “Lihaaf maang le”. The inspiration is obviously late Ismat Chughtai’s short story Lihaaf (The Quilt), which was published in 1942 in the Urdu literary journal Adab-i-Latif and eventually banned for obscenity by the government in 1944. Being summoned by the Lahore Court, Chughtai challenged the odd and won in court. More weird than any quirky dialogue of Ishqiya/Dedh Ishqiya is the fact that even after nearly 70 years the mentality still remains the same and Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code shamelessly declares homosexuality as illegal.
Last Words: Forget entertainment, forget sex, forget poetic celebration. Forget mass or class appeal.
The makers of Dedh Ishqiya (Abhishek Chaubey’s direction and produced by Raman Maroo, Vishal Bhardwaj) showed the guts to think beyond limited range, to create an illusion which has more dignity than obscenity, to speak the unsaid with every bit of silence. And, that’s what makes it unique, just like those lines by Orson Welles : “Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others..”
Dipashri Bardhan is a film enthusiast, loves to watch meaningful films, loves to travel & of course loves to write.