Saturday, May 12, 2012


Release date:
May 11, 2012
Habib Faisal
Parineeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, Gauahar Khan

Regressiveness is never more dangerous than when it’s pretending to be liberal. Ishaqzaade is a cleverly deceptive anti-women film that diverts attention from its true colours with a heroine who spits fire and can fire a gun with panache rarely seen in a Bollywood leading lady. But like so many Hindi films that have come before, it also stipulates that a woman must forgive even the worst, most inexcusable crime committed by the man she loves. And make no mistake about this: what the hero does to the heroine at one point is nothing but a crime!
The film’s shockingly backward stance on women is particularly disappointing because it is directed by Habib Faisal who made that excellent Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Kapoor-starrer Do Dooni Chaar and wrote the fabulous Band Baaja Baaraat. Don’t get me wrong … I have no doubt situations and characters like the ones in this film do exist in the real world, but it is always clear when a film is taking a position on an issue as opposed to a position being taken only by a character/s in that film. Ishaqzaade’s story by Aditya Chopra and Habib Faisal, screenplay and dialogues by Faisal leave us in no doubt where the makers of this film stand on women’s rights and sexual aggression. This is unfortunate because Ishaqzaade has so much else going for it!

The story is set in the small town of Almore in northern India. The patriarchs of the Qureshi and Chauhan clans are standing for elections from opposing parties. Against this backdrop, Chauhan’s no-good grandson Parma and Qureshi’s feisty daughter Zoya meet and fall in love. As you can imagine, because of the political rivalries and religious differences involved, the path to the altar is not smooth for them.
The first half of Ishaqzaade is quite lovely – the humour is unusual and unrelenting, there’s a natural style to the storytelling and there’s a twist at every turn leading to an entirely unexpected scenario right before the interval. Like most Hindu-Muslim romances in Bollywood, this one too plays it safe and sticks to the tradition of making the woman the minority community member while the Hindu in the relationship is the man! That apart, I enjoyed the way Faisal’s smoothly written lines don’t pussyfoot around the offensive terms people tend to use in real life to describe members of other communities: Parma repeatedly calls Zoya a Musalli to her face, she calls him a kaafir. But post interval, the story goes out of control, the medieval attitude towards women is revealed, the dialogues begin to sound over-smart and the humour feels misplaced considering the grim setting. All this leads up to a completely unsatisfactory conclusion!

Debutant Arjun Kapoor – son of producers Boney Kapoor and Mona Kapoor – plays Parma in the first half of the film as if he was born into the role. This ishaqzaada is first a haraamzaada (bastard) in the fullest sense of that word – a trigger-happy goonda, a liar, blackmailer, a regular visitor to brothels, an oppressor of the poor. In the second half though, when a more nuanced performance is called for, he falls short. He also needs to guard against the fact that a couple of his facial expressions seem lifted right off Abhishek Bachchan. Still, because he’s got an interesting screen presence I’ll wait to see him in his next film before deciding whether he was simply being himself in the first half of Ishaqzaade or he was acting well.
Gauahar Khan as the prostitute with the golden heart and the actress playing Parma’s mother are the pick of the supporting cast. The mom is also blessed with the most credible and consistent character in the film. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag.  

The star of the film though is Parineeti Chopra playing the spirited Zoya. This role has much in common with the cheeky kid she played in her debut film Ladies vs Ricky Bahl just months back, but she manages to bring enough to this performance to make Zoya’s pizzazz different. Parineeti’s obvious talent is no compensation, however, for Zoya’s conformist, wimpish behavior after the interval that seems completely out of character. In fact, Zoya’s inconsistent characterisation must rank as one of the worst pieces of writing in a Hindi film in recent years!
Discussing the music, cinematography and other technical aspects of Ishaqzaade seems superfluous considering the way the film’s fun and seemingly feminist first half is marred by its anti-women second half. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. After all producers Yash Raj Films are the ones who gave us Laaga Chunari Mein Daag which suggested that an abla naari in the big city with a family to support back in her village has no option but to become a hooker!

There’s more to liberalism than putting a gun in your heroine’s hands!
Rating (out of five): **1/2

CBFC Rating:                       U/A

Language:                              Hindi


  1. Never have watched a movie for what a review said about it. But I guess this could be an exception because the reviewer mentions this as being an anti-women film. And that is a view I don't subscribe to- I am totally 'pro'. Maybe I can come back here after I watch the movie and share more.... :)

  2. I think you have misread the film and its intentions completely. I don't think you understand the difference between what a character says/does in the film and what a filmmaker is trying to say. A filmmaker's job is to tell a story and throw light on reality, not to offer solutions. Ishaqzaade has thrown light on the situation of women in patriarchal India and how women have to deal with oppression. I, as a woman, did not feel that Zoya was wimpish or conformist. I wish you had pointed out instances where you thought she was. If you are referring to her feeding the male character, or washing him because he is hurt, I didn't feel that made her wimpish. It only made her human, since it had been she who had slashed him in retaliation. In the same way then, do you believe that Parma begging for forgiveness on his knees for what he did to her is wimpish?? Please do not look at films from a one-sided view. Ishaqzaade is a rare film that has given Hindi cinema a feisty heroine, different from the stereotypical 'bimbettes' we have had so far in all our films. Please let Zoya be what she is without running her down. She is the closest we have had to a real woman in a long time and she deserves a special place in cinema history.

  3. Personally, loved the film. Regarding the female roles -the heroine is portrayed as a sensible, bold and sincere lover. The hero considers the heroine equals. The mothers of both are caring mothers. This film is realistic and good. Must watch.

  4. I guess you're afraid to publish my comments!! Shameful!!

  5. My Review of Ishaqzaade

  6. I think the reviewer has delved a bit too deep into the nuances and logic of the movie and its story...after all if you compare this critique like that of a dish, realize both's success truly is based on whether one's tastebuds approve of it or not, else at best it is appreciated as an acquired taste or just rejected the next time.

    So, the point is...the movie just depicts a plot based on a situation which isn't very far from reality of it's existence in some corner if not many corners of this let's accept it as it is, and enjoy the movie! The characters have unabashedly, displayed their ideology however radical it was...but the final product, which is after all a work of fiction had turned out convincing and entertaining (if you refrain from being judgemental). Great performance from the whole start cast. Go watch it!

  7. I loved your review. I think you are bang on in your reading of the film as a co-optive strategy where anti-feminist characters and events have been masqueraded as 'liberal'and 'risque'. The film is a dangerous legitimisation of rape and a systematic disciplining of a girl who is independent and courageous through the trope of heterosexual 'love'. The filmmaker has taken great care to make sure that the man is not emasculated in any way and that the woman in 'feminised' into suitable submission and self anhilation- so its apt that it is her who decides to kill herself. Fabulous work with your analysis.

    1. Dear above anonymous, the man is completely emasculated in this film acc to my reading - he is shown begging for forgiveness through the film, he is slashed and knifed by the woman, he is shown on his knees asking her to forgive him. How much more emasculation do you need? Also the filmmaker gives the woman character the final and crucial decision of ending their lives, not self-annihilation alone. Did you not see that they killed each other? She didn't commit suicide singlehandedly. Films like these, with important messages, need to be watched with more attention and closer reading, not the superficial way in which this reviewer and you seem to have watched it the way you watch your favorite commercial films.