… And the new enchantress of Indian Cinema
I am still in a haze about Vidya Balan in the movie, so kindly excuse any over-the-top praise.
But the woman is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant, sensuous actresses produced by India. Or any other culture, I could perhaps safely say but we shall let that pass for now.
When I try to separate the movie – Ishqiya – from Vidya, it seems plain. She owns the movie, which is natural I guess because the role was apparently written with her in mind. Her eyes in mind, I would figure.
The movie, as many of you would’ve heard by now, is about Krishna (Vidya Balan), the widow of a naxalite who lets two criminals – Arshad Warsi and Nasseruddin Shah – on the run take refuge in her house. Warsi and Shah are trying to escape Shah’s crook brother-in-law, whose money they stole and then tied him up when he tried to get his hoodlums to kill them.
Krishna’s husband was blown up by unknown people and you’ve a slightly downcast yet gorgeous woman who let the two crooks into her little house by the river in a little village in North India.
Shah falls half in love with her when he hears her sing early morning… at least infatuated enough to color his pepper and salt hair black with a box of surma lying on the table. Warsi isn’t really looking at her. He prefers the local red light area, which a young worker in her house leads him to. Unfortunately, the bro-in-law tracks them down there, beats them up (and before Warsi could get any action) and then they discover the money they had stashed in her house has vanished too.
Naturally, you suspect the innocent, gorgeous widow with the mysterious eyes. It is the eyes that do you in. She says she did not steal them… but her eyes are so dark, you believe her… even as you look into her eyes and wonder if you are an idiot for believing her. That is when the word ‘enchantress’ came to mind. So they figure it was Nandu, that young worker, who stole the money. Except now Nandu has joined the Naxalite army and trying to find him is suicide.
Warsi wants to run but Shah is reluctant to leave her in trouble… but she takes the matter out of their hands. Gets a shotgun, scares the shit out of them by shooting at them and clearly tells them “I know you are assholes but now i get to decide who gets to leave when”.
And they hatch a plan to kidnap one of the rich guys in town. A natural enough deed in a place where kidnappings are a way of life. Her husband was the king of the kidnapping ring and she picks the target – the least rich guy.
She does it all with a matter-of-fact way. Not cold. Just like another thing to be done… Warsi, meanwhile, finds her really hot after she nearly shot his pants off. She is a little more affectionate towards the older, poetic Shah. Who does she eventually end up with, if she does end up with anyone at all? You do not know what she is thinking… she exudes an air of helplessness and innocence, even when every single instinct tells you that she isn’t.
Even if you aren’t charmed by her (and i’d wonder about you if you weren’t), there are enough twists in the plot to keep you interested. And Shah and Warsi who are delightful… Shah is suave, a little more restrained… the sort of crook who’d plead guilty when you catch him, shrugging. Warsi is a little more hot-blooded, funny and earthy. The sort who would joke with you even as he robs you blind.
It is a small town story… and even if I wanted to compare it to an english movie (which is somehow considered the standard for any movie), I can’t find one. It is sheer Indian… with the caste politics, the language, the rusticity, and yet it is sleek. A typical Vishal Bharadwaj… and um… I can’t remember the director’s name… movie.
It is the sort of movie that makes you feel good about Indian cinema and the talent. Balan should perhaps stop going ‘commerical’ and simply let people write such beautiful roles for her. And yeah, finally one woman for whom I would really turn gay. Or if any man has half her charm, I’d take him… it is the stuff books were written about… the mysterious sexiness of a crook. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah! More such movies!