Ishqiya begins with a blank screen and the melodious Rekha Bhardwaj crooning "Ab Mujhe Koi" and the first visual we get to see is that of Krishna Verma (Vidya Balan) in bed with her lover. While we were expecting to see a set piece involving the two main con-men of the movie director Abhishek Chaubey instead shows us a voluptuous woman (And thank god we do not have yet another heroine who seems digitally produced to be size zero) much in love with her husband. In fact over the whole movie the director does this skillfully, just when we think that we have a grip on the proceedings on screen the director yet again pulls the rug from under our feet. In fact it is almost like an Agatha Christie novel in so far as that the clues are all there in the scenes building up to that point but one almost feels stupid for not seeing them for what they are. Such a movie runs the risk of coming across as contrived (Think Race) but until maybe the last 15 mins of this movie full credit has to go to the writers that they don't fall into this trap.
Depicting the story of a con duo Khalujan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi)on the run from their sadistic boss Mushtaq (Salman Shahid). Their different attitudes to life are captured during the song Badi Dheere Jali (our personal favorite and yet again Rekha Bharadwaj) sung by Krishna during Sunrise , while Khalujan rushes to find the source of the vocals, Babban is none to impressed and wants to get back to sleep. So while Khalujan and Krishna have debates about whether a music piece is SD Burman or Hemant Kumar, that of Krishna and Babban is sheer smoldering physical love with a post-coital swinging to Mika's "Dil Main Baji Guitar". All this set amidst a visually tantalizing confusing back drop of Eastern UP where kidnapping seems as much of an everyday occurrence as traffic jams in Bangalore, Millionaires indulging in S&M in what is ostensibly a beauty parlor, well armed caste based armies in a state of conflict, which in one of the most mischievous dialogue Nandu educates a wide eyed Babban by saying "Kids here learn about guns before toilet training". (One needs to listen to it in Hindi to appreciate it).
But the real hero and the central figure in this movie is Krishna. Playing a femme fatale who is the defining feature of any film noir she manages to pull off the twin role of the smooth seductress with her old world charms to keep Khalujaan hooked, while using her body with Babban all the while manipulating them like chess pieces in her master plan. Though Vidya Balan has done an admirable job much to my surprise by not screwing up the movie totally for me, this is where I think the movie suffers, she would have cut more ice as a Tier II town femme fatale rather than a village belle. The rusticity is short of the mark even though I believe she has done her best. (Think Konkona Sen Sharma in Omkara). But that is a minor point to nitpick over in what is otherwise an excellent movie.
The cinematography is consistently excellent throughout the movie and one can detect the influences of some other directors whose movies we are big fans of.
And what better tribute to pay the movie than that after watching Babban we are seriously thinking of growing a mustache!!!