Yes friends, I'm talking about the movie "Dedh Ishqiya", a most delightful movie that has come along in a very long time. After flashy capers like "Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani" and "Dhoom 3", which made one nauseated with the uber, "Dedh Ishqiya" comes like a whiff of fresh air carrying with it the delicate fragrance of sufiyana ittar of Awadh. A light-hearted rom-com, if one could call it that considering its elegance, which lifts the spirits just that bit.
The movie starts with Khalu and Babban (Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi respectively, reprising their roles) back to their thieving ways. They steal jewelry, get chased by the police and get separated. Khalu turns up a fresh new fish in nawabi couture, sporting a classy white beard, carrying the ubiquitous red rose and spouting Urdu poetry like fountains spouting sprays of water in Mughlai courtyards. He is just one in a line-up of wanna-be Nawabs wooing Beghum Para,i.e., Madhuri Dixit-Nene in all her timeless beauty. The line-up includes a long-haired, murderous MLA, Jaan Bhai (Vijay Raaz) with a retinue of gun-toting goons-cum-sidekicks, who too spouts shayari like bullets spouting from his sidekicks' guns. It is not clear where Khalu sources his shayari from....maybe the shers are open sourced from his own vocabulary. Jaan Bhai, on the other hand (the one not holding the gun), has a "captive" source of couplets, Somebodynobodyanybody Tyrebodyfatbodystuffedbody Italvi, whose Ammi is an Italian and friends with "Soniaji".
Babban reaches this scene of crimedy hunting for Khalu, who has managed to hoodwink him and make his way to this swayamwar, in Mahmudabad, near Lucknow. There his eyes meet the eyes of Huma Quereshi, in the persona of Munira, the Girl Friday of Beghum Para. Now Beghum Para was once the stifled wife of a decadent Nawab, who left this world and a crumbling haveli, with a promise from his Beghum that she would remarry (how convenient)! Hence the line-up for the swayamwar which includes Khalu, Jaan Bhai and scores of other achkan-clad shayars. Thrown into this mix is the revelation that Girl Friday is planning to abduct Robinson herself, and a bechara South-Indian police officer posted in the bowels of Hindi-heartland badlands. And what ensues, after this motley crowd gets together, is what "Dedh Ishqiya" is all about.
In terms of sets and ambience, the film is rated A1. The setting is artistic, beautiful and ethereal even. The grandeur of the haveli and its surroundings is nothing like the garish, over-the-top and opulent sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies. If "Ram Leela" was hedonism, "Dedh Ishqiya" is Ruhaniyat. The feel is lyrical yet Vishal-Bharadwaj-esque earthy. The soft, smoky lighting from the swinging chandeliers of another time give the impression of ice, molten by light, recrystallized into glistening glass sculptures. The film juxtaposes relics of another era in modern times, a prime example of which is Beghum Para herself, who may dress by night as sharara-clad medieval royalty, but in daytime, she wears chiffon sarees and pearls, like modern-day royalty. Jaan Bhai's SUVs and guns are as present day as Babban's iphone5 gift to Munira. Dialogues are easy on the ears and more suitable for civilized ears than the ones in the prequel, "Ishqiya". The Urdu poetry is superlative, much of which is because Urdu is one of the sweetest tongues in the world, with its soft timbre falling on human ears like a shower of rose petals. Humour flows with the narrative, and in no place are comic situations artificial or contrived. Comedy is woven into the story as inextricably as the poetry and the faux-violence. The silks, chiffons, tulles, satins, laces, sequins, pearls, chikankari, zardozi, polkis, kundans, and gold; costumes and jewelry are breathtaking but sophisticated, and hence the leading ladies themselves are turned out like the nazms sung by the Beghum's suitors.
In terms of performance, Naseeruddin Shah and Madhuri Dixit-Nene live up to the expectations of avid fans. The transformation of the irascible Khalu into the love-lorn shayar Iftikhar and back into the foxy Khalu is amazing, though probably just a wave of hand for Naseeruddin Shah. Madhuri, despite a face-lift and botox, manages to emote (and her eyes look normal too, not stretched like other Bollywood celebs going under the knife). Her forehead does crease and her eyes do close.....may be she should be more forthcoming about her surgeon so that her colleagues benefit too and we are spared stony performances. Seriously, Madhuri is amazing...she looks her age, acts her age and still manages to charm. Arshad Warsi has turned in a 10/10 performance. The uncouth Babban remains uncouth even in a sherwani. Huma Qureshi retains her buxom-med sexiness, much to the delight of Babban and other adoring men. Vijay Raaz's comic villain is fultoo entertainment despite being seen-there heard-that. Manoj Pahwa is adorable as the ruddy Italvi.
Overall, a floating-on-the-froth-of-a-cool-glass-of-sweet-intoxicating-badaami-thandai experience, not to be missed by all closet and come-out romantics!