Monday, September 15, 2014

This Will Destroy You

Dedh Ishqiya is a veritable blitzkrieg of style, class, wit, wordplay, dark humor and overall brilliance. It's supported by what is certainly the most powerful starcast we've seen in recent years; a killer, killer soundtrack; the sharpest, cleverest, funniest dialogues you'll ever hear; and an exquisite plotline that spans everything from subtle literary nods to the now classic (and once scandalous) Ismat Chugtai short story Lihaaf; to highbrow, classic Urdu poetry, including references to modern masters like Bashir Badr (rendered in flawless diction by all the actors (the last time NF was blown away by such beautiful Urdu woven so seamlessly into a film's narrative was when he'd watched Muhafiz on a boring, never-ending Lucknow afternoon, courtesy Doordarshan)); to bawdy humor, (numerous) Mexican standoffs and its noirish-yet-goofy take on the semi rustic, lawless badlands of UP. 

It seems correct to say that there hasn't been in recent memory, any film that has be so self-aware of its use of language, in the way it consciously hinges its narrative on wordplay and verbal stylization. For a more in-depth piece on the film's use of Urdu, read this fabulous essay by Shoaib Daniyal. Some extracts are reproduced here to incentivize you to read the full article:

In a twist typical of the film, fist fights and gun brandishing suddenly give way to poetry, as Khalujaan picks up the word “wādā” (promise) used by Jaan and starts taunting him using a sher. A gangster by profession and somewhat removed from the world of poetry, Jaan retorts as best he can by racking his brains and coming up with the only sher he knows on “wādā. This change of playing field from violence to poetry, though, can only end badly for Jaan. His verse induces derisive laughter from Khalujaan who then points out that Jaan’s original sher spoke of “bādā” (wine) and not “wādā” at all.
Jaan’s battles with Urdu lead to some curious results. Throughout the movie he uses some high vocabulary (“shamsheer” for “talwār” and “gauhar” for "hīre-motī”) but slips up on the simplest of Urdu words, mispronouncing “Ishq” as “Issak” or “shart” as “sart”. And not only Jaan, for all the other characters, this High Urdu is just a mask put on to impress. Khalujaan, who is otherwise a talented poet, talks to his closest friend Babban in their common earthy register of Bhopali Urdu. 

It is safe to say that the marvelous Dedh Ishqiya totally killed NF! He's still reeling under, grasping the immensity of what's hit him! 

Abhishek Chaubey has directed a film that may just be <*gasp*> even better than his first venture. And with it he joins the ranks of brash, new, extremely exciting young directors in Hindi cinema now - all of them hailing from UP (ha! take that) - Vishal Bharadwaj, Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia. 

Take a bow Chaubey! You've converted NF into your total fanboy!

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