Following on from its prequel, Dedh Ishqiya continues the escapades of Khalu and Babban, played wonderfully by Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi respectively. The two petty thieves this time find themselves in the fictional land of Mehmoodabad, which tries to amalgamate the old world charm with today’s modernities.
Living in the castle of Mehmoodabad is the widowed Begum Para, played perfectly by Madhuri Dixit, together with her ever-so-trustworthy confidant Muniya, essayed skillfully by Huma Quereshi. Together, the two ladies host a campaign to seek the best Nawab who would not only become Begum Para’s life companion, but also claim the rights to all her royalties as the town’s imminent patriarch. Smitten by the undeniable beauty of Begum, who also happens to be his long lost love, Khalu takes it on himself to win back her heart and soul, while vying with another Nawab characterized intricately by Vijay Raaz. Meanwhile, Babban and Muniya also catch each other’s fancy.
Contrastingly, though, their pairing seems layered largely with lust, than compared to the spiritual and emotional connection shared by the two senior stalwarts; the two couples are at different stages of their ‘true love’. What happens to the two love stories, and who Begum eventually chooses as her life partner forms the crux of the film, whose overlying theme is largely reminiscent of its prequel.
Admittedly, this film is set in an ambience of its own, as the makers tried hard to cater to both the classes and masses by balancing their artistic inclinations with commercial demands. The classes may be enamoured by the characters’ eloquent gestures, poetic dialogues and royal attire, which was complemented commendably by picturesque photography, and classical music. For the masses, director Abhishek Choubey spiced up his film with Khalu and Babban’s slang-laden comedic camaraderie, along with several other light-hearted moments.
Despite this, a lot was left to be desired, as neither of the groups left completely satiated. The music was neither purely classical, nor did it have any memorable tracks – let alone blockbuster ones, as seen in its prequel. The story, although largely logical and taut, meandered at a leisurely pace for most parts, only to pack in the punches towards the penultimate scenes, by which time most were already losing their interest and patience. Moreover, while this can’t be considered a genuinely ‘dark’ film, it definitely wasn’t a light entertainer either. The greatest saving grace of all, though, were the outstanding performances. It was a complete joy to watch all five of the main actors be in their element, and lay trust in their director’s vision.
In naming their film ‘1.5 Ishqiya,’ little did the makers know that alas the trick of their quirks would fall back on them. In pursuit of making a film with at least double the value of its prequel, they only mustered a humble dedh of its original! Truly, it was Dedh Ishqiya! For my rating, though, I’d double the ‘dedh,’ and give it a worthy 3 out of 5 for their zealous efforts and aesthetic execution.