May 24, 2013
Prem Raj (earlier known as Prem Soni)
Preity Zinta, Rhehan Malliek (earlier known as Gaurav Chanana), Isabelle Adjani, Guest appearances by Shekhar Kapur and Chunky Pandey
Hindi, English and a bit of French
At its core, shorn of all its insecurities, Ishkq in Paris is sweet. Actress Preity Zinta makes her debut as a producer with an unconventional Hindi film where the building blocks are conversations – and nothing else – between the lead pair. Ishkq (yes that’s Preity’s name in the film) and Aakash (Rhehan Malliek) meet on a train to Paris and decide to spend the night together doing whatever comes up at the roll of a dice…quite literally, since a cube they’ve picked up from an Indian knick-knacks seller has “coffee”, “dinner”, “sex” and other words written on each face.
She’s a half-Indian-half-French photographer based in Paris. He’s a Punjabi working in London as an actor’s agent, with a flight out of Paris to catch the following morning. He’s got sex on his mind, but is stumped by this pretty girl who refuses to let him buy her dinner, pointing out bluntly that she knows there are no free meals in this world. He cuts to the chase: All right then, spend the night with me. Don’t try so hard to be European, she shoots back, having already told him earlier that he’s the typical Indian male. Sigh. Okay, no hanky panky, just show me this city, he says. And so she does. You can see from that moment on that he’s smitten though he won’t quite let on. You can see too that she is that intriguing combination of friendly yet distant though not by design. They’re both commitment-phobic for various reasons. And so they talk through the night…and talk and talk…and reveal more about themselves to each other than they might have if they’d known they’d ever meet again. Where will this unusual Hindi film take us?
Plenty of places, would have been the answer if Ishkq in Paris had not succumbed to the insecurities (that word again) that makes Bollywood insert star-driven item numbers into films that don’t need them, songs where words and silences may have served a greater purpose, a cameo by a major star where a non-star actor may have done a better job and a cliched climax where the initial storyline held out a promise of non-conformism all the way through. What makes matters worse for IIP is that neither the item boy in question (Salman Khan) nor the music directors (Sajid-Wajid) nor the guest star (French acting legend Isabelle Adjani playing Ishkq’s mother) seem to have bothered to make much of an effort for this film. Salman’s dance moves here have none of the energy and mischief we’ve come to associate with him. Sajid-Wajid have churned out a string of generic songs for Ishkq’s love story. And Adjani seems frozen-faced, even detached from the proceedings throughout her screen time.
Who on earth decided to give her Hindi lines but get them dubbed by an actress whose voice doesn’t suit her? Did Adjani specify that she will not make the effort to speak Hindi? If she did, why oh why didn’t they opt for a smaller star who may have been more involved? Yeah yeah, we know getting her was a casting coup but do consider the pros and cons! And if she did actually say her own lines then why did they dub over her voice? Heightening the problem is the fact that the mom is the narrator of the film but it’s hard to connect to her because the voice used for the narration is the dubbing artiste’s not Adjani’s. All this makes you cry in anguish for Preity who’s been inexplicably dropped like a hot brick by Bollywood in recent years; and who’s clearly invested a lot of herself in this film. Well, she is not just the producer, she shares the writing credits with director Prem Raj, so she must take much of the blame.
This is quite tragic because so much of Ishkq in Paris is charming and mellow and in the first half matches the mood and tone of two very nice Hindi films from 2012: Ek Main aur Ekk Tu and London Paris New York. IIP is clearly inspired by Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but all the films we’ve just mentioned were confident about how they wanted to say what they wanted to say; Ishkq in Paris is not, and so it brings on the unnecessary frills. More’s the pity because Preity clearly has some acting left in her; and when she dimples up here, she does so without that awareness of her own cuteness that was in evidence in earlier films… Clearly then she has a comfortable equation with Prem Raj (who, by the way, earlier made the Salman-Khan-Kareena-Kapoor-starrer Main aurr Mrs Khanna). Rhehan is no mean actor himself. Both look good and look good together in this film. It jars when he briefly goes out of character and metamorphoses into an MCP-aspiring-to-be-a-knight-in-shining-armour who tells the girl, “Main tumhe tumhare akelepan se bachana chahta hoon”, but it’s also true that here for a change we actually get a Bollywood hero who apologises to the heroine for his MCP-ism. Besides, Manush Nandan’s camera captures Paris beyond the Eiffel Tower in an intimate, non-touristy way that’s uncharacteristic of Bollywood.
So here’s what it comes down to: if you’re a die-hard romantic like me, then you might be in a mood to close your eyes to this film’s many flaws. I suspect that's the only way Ishkq in Paris would be your cup of tea. As always, it’s your call.
Rating (out of five): **3/4
CBFC Rating (India):
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishkq_in_Paris