Friday, 26 July 2013



ISSAQ is a contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in the backdrop of Varanasi in the UP heartland,complete with naxalism, sand mining mafia and of course the timeless love story.  The director gives new skeins to William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers and transports the duo to the holy town on the banks of the Ganges, where an unholy war is raging between two bloodthirsty clans. The movie begins with colour-saturated beginning, with everything springing up with such vividness : the picturesque Banaras, which never dims despite a million sightings : the young man, who like all young men, is desirous : the girl who has a freshness to her. And a tale which looked like Machiavellian in its Shakespearean ambition, it was clear that Issaq was going to layer the love story with high decibels, and a constant rampage of characters. But Alias ! it could not sustain the same level all through and unfortunately too many cooks spoilt the broth especially in the second half. But, still I'll commend the efforts of Manish Tiwary (Director, not to be confused with our I.B. minister) for not choosing to tamper with the original Shakespearean ending (down to the apothecary's potion working cruel deceptions on the couple's turbulent destiny), he makes radical changes in the Shakespearean play's politics. And indeed doom has seldom seemed so desirable on screen. Old Willie Boy might even exclaim at some points of the tale of the tender and the titanic, “Damn, why didn’t I think of this?”

STORY & SCREENPLAY                               :  Manish Tiwary along with two of his talented contemporaries in writing field i.e.Padmaja Thakore-Tiwary and Pawan Soni has penned down a raw, rugged and rapacious desi version of "Romeo and Juliet", which has not focused on so called commercial writing but yes have surprisingly managed to portray, our desi Juliet as a proud virgin till the end. The deviations apart, "Issaq" is a frightfully fertile film filled with images of rancour and tenderness. Writers have wasted no time in getting into the thick of Montague-Capulet feud. Here they are named the Mishras and the Kashyaps - but what's in a name? Families teeming with gun-toting leery men whose voracious appetite for killing is matched by their libidos. They have brilliantly tried to portray that Life’s most traumatic cemetery is surely the memory of pain, for it is buried but not dead. Communities have to find the spirit that can liberate them from the bonds of past anguish, to discover a future in a new perspective as Violence destroys both perpetrator and victim. Script & screenplay blends such moments of free-flowing sensitivity with the darker, murkier reality of blazing guns and furtive fornication without letting the sleaze touch the purity of the central romance. Finally, a brief of the storyline is that The Kashyaps and the Mishras are old rivals. The third beneficiary in this battle for power, money and control over local natural resources is a Maoist group led by a brutal and charismatic leader (Prashant Narayanan). Rahul Mishra falls in love with Bachchi Kashyap in an afternoon of holi hysteria. After the families discover their affair, Rahul is on the run. In pain, oppression and much melodrama, the couple waits to reunite. The tragic end is unintentionally facilitated by a levitating baba (Makarand Deshpande). There are many Benares staples, among them a white-skinned woman in awe of her spiritual guru’s puerile ideas about romantic love.

STARCAST                                                       :  The biggest asset of Issaq is its cast who have delivered impeccable performances and hence credit must be given to Romil Modi( Casting Director). Prateik Babbar's performance as a love-smitten Romeo is so apt that you tend to forgive his past embarrassing performances. There's a marked improvement in his diction delivery. The Uttar Pradesh accent does fall off. But what the heck! This Romeo is real. Amyra Dastur is a prized find. Precocious, pretty, expressive and agile, this girl is a star in her very first film. True,she does come across as slightly too 'convent' to be a Varanasi girl, but her radiant sincerity simply melts your misgivings. The surprise package has turned out to be Ravi Kishen who is simply outstanding as Amyra's protective angry violent uncle. Whenever Ravi is on screen, it's hard to look at any other actor. Rajeshwari Sachdev as Amyra's stepmom steps into a randy role with relish. She is in splendid form, bringing to her character both a sexual frankness and a moral ambivalence on which hangs the impact of the tragedy. Not to forget, Prashant Narayanan who has played the role of a naxalite to perfection and its a treat to watch this actor display his acting histrionics.  Makrand Deshpande who has essayed the role of a Sadhu virtually lights up the screen whenever he appears and brings a smile to your face. In the ensemble actors it is Neena Gupta (Amyra's Aaya), Sudhir Pandey (Amyra's father), Vineet Kumar Singh (Prateik's buddy) & Prashant Kumar (Amyra's fiancee) who have played their part with aplomb and definitely deserve a mention.

TECHNICAL FINESSE                                              :         Music for this flick has been composed by Sachin-Jigar as well as Krsna but the music which generally plays an important part in a love story has not been able to become that big a rage in case of Issaq. I'll make special mention of production designer Ashwini Shrivastav for giving Varanasi a look of lived-in and loved-in splendour.  Vishal Sinha's cinematography is plush and passionate and yet the film's visuals never topples over into the kingdom of the garish. And what visuals as he has made the desi Romeo and Juliet's turbulent togetherness an occasion for optical enchantment. Film has been edited by Manoj Kannoth who has shown his finesse and has packaged the action in run-time of 148 minutes. As a director,  Manish Tiwary knows his Shakespeare as well as he knows the rugged north Indian hinterland of blood savagery and abuses which he has showcased through this movie. Tiwary cleverly holds back the boorishness. There's little or no vulgarity and uncouthness in the script and Tiwary manages to project the perky innocence of first-love without getting over-cute, cloying or cheesy. He is definitely a good director and holds lot of promise.

WOW MOMENTS                                                    :  .Watch out for the shot of Prateik falling from the rooftop into a yellow-coloured water tank which is so brilliant that you fear the director's visual aptitude may overpower the basic plot. Also, a sequence where Amyra is being married off to the cop-suitor(Prashant Kumar) and Rajeshwari applies the haldi on her grieving stepdaughter. Watch out for Rajeshwari's expressions which within seconds go from contempt and smugness to feminine empathy and compassion.

CONCLUSION                                                         :      Issaq is truly a daring cinematic experience which is quite different from the general run of the mill kind of movies and has portrayed Love and war coming together in a passionate embrace. A sense of desperate longing runs through this adrenaline-pumping drama driven forward by a cast of actors who know there is something vital happening here.This is one of the most innovative adaptations of Romeo & Juliet shown in Bollywood and despite some shortcomings is still worth a DEKHO for who like unconventional cinema.

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