Rating: 3/5 Stars (Three stars)
Star Cast: Irrfan Khan, Tillotama Shome, Rasika Duggal, Sonia Bindra, Tisca Chopra
Director: Anup Singh
What’s Good: The daring show of how one man’s misogynist nature results in ruining the lives of those close to him. This film is exemplary for all those instances of female oppression that our country has been plagued with since times immemorial.
What’s Bad: The confluence of magical realism in a story that could have been dealt with in a much stronger manner. Missing attention to graver issues of Kawar who is going through a difficult identity crisis in a second half which was expected to lift the story higher. A slightly dragging screenplay really plays down the rich story.
Loo break: A quick one may not harm!
Watch or Not?: Qissa is a painful story dealing with issues of identity crisis and is particularly hard-hitting. The raw nature of this film is not meant for everyone and so watch this film if you want to see something meaningful.
Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan) is a Sikh who is forced to leave his homeland in the atrocious time of Partition. While Umber is busy fighting for his town, his wife Meher (Tisca Chopra) who is in hiding along with the clan’s women and children, gives birth to their third daughter. Umber who is hoping against hope to finally see a male heir is once again left in dismay. To spare themselves of the scarring riots of partition, Umber Singh and his family move to the Indian acquired Punjab.
After having set up a decent living with the wood business, Meher is once again bearing a child and this time Umber is sure of having a son. As Meher gives birth to her fourth daughter, blinded by his desperacy for a son, Umber declares the fourth child as his son and even forces a rather scared Meher to do so.
Kawar (Tillotama Shome) is grown up to be a male and is taught every possible masculine thing by her overbearing father. In this coming of age tale, how will Kawar deal with the conflict of being raised as a man in a woman’s body when he gets married to a girl?
Qissa Review: Script Analysis
As a kid when we did role-playing and played husbands even after being girls, imagine what if you never came out of that? Well, yeah this story of Kawar gives you goosebumps. This film is a slap on the face for the Indian matriarchal society which preaches that a male heir is a solution to all their third world problems. The story is intense and when you see a scene where in the twelve year old child who is taught to be boy get his first period completely leaves you speechless.
I agree that there is nothing perplexing about the story but the way it has been presented certainly makes it thought-provoking. If only, the film maker had stuck to telling a story that deals with the conflicting mind of a coming of age girl and the sexual tension between her and her wife, this script would have been flawless. The inclusion of magical realism with elements such as ghosts makes it overly surreal and loses the grip that it starts with.
Qissa Review: Star Performances
Irrfan Khan yet again shows that he is a magnificent actor. He is brilliant as a misogynist Umber Singh. Apart from the dialogues, it is Irrfan’s silences that speak volumes for his acting talents. He certainly has an eye for scripts and this role is enough to make sure that you are left with enough disgust for his character.
Tisca Chopra as Meher does not make cheese of this role. She is in fact a little disappointing as a mother who does not stand up to save her daughter’s life. Tisca failed at making us feel for her character.
Tillotama Shome is excellent as Kawar. She is perfect with her expressions that show the conflict within. Shome outshines in the second half in a scene when she decides to defend her father and accept herself as a girl.
Rasika Duggal as Neeli who is married to Kawar really catches your attention as the sparky gypsy girl. She plays her character with full potential and in certain scenes even does a better job than Shome. Neeli is the character you truly pity.
Qissa Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Qissa does not run longer than two hours but still the screenplay drags in the second half. Anup Singh builds a gripping first half but his story flounders in the second half. The background score is rich and is helpful in filling up the pain. Other than stellar performances by the actors, the cinematography of Qissa is a delight. Especially the shots of locations that express the void and empty nature of its characters is worth appreciating.
Singh makes sure that his story touches you and leave you with a thought. The director makes no mistakes in showing disdained lands of a post partition land and re-creates the era really well. Qissa could have been a masterpiece had it not ventured into confusing the audience in the second half with its surreal nature.
Qissa Review: The Last Word
Qissa is a painful story and it is strictly meant for those who watch films for their rich content and not its entertaining quotient. In a way it is a depressing film and may not make up for a friendly watch. I thoroughly enjoyed its raw nature and so I am going with a 3/5 for this film.
Qissa releases on 20th February, 2015.
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