Friday, July 26, 2013

Fraud Shakespeare

Film: Issaq

Director: Manish Tiwary

What’s in a name? That which we call Issaq, be by any other word, wouldn’t be as awful. To think that Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Othello (Omkara) was on the verge of being called Issaq, going by the sound of how Ishq is said in the larger part of North India, would make you shudder after you watch this film. However, the destiny of the word Issaq was somewhere entwined to a Shakespearean adaptation.

But in Manish Tiwary’s world, the adaptation begins and ends with a few simplistic pick-and-drops. Verona becomes Varanasi, Capulets become Kashyaps, Montagues become Mishras and the sweet smell of a tragic, yet rosy romance is lost in the pungent odour of its twisted narrative that combines more elements than are necessary in a film.

As if family rivalry and a romance in its midst wasn’t dramatic enough, Issaq adds an element of Naxalism, with Prashant Narayanan as a leader of a Naxalist faction that randomly attacks and yells “Lal Salaam!” for no reason whatsoever. This might be the Indianised adaptation of the part in Romeo and Juliet when the Crusaders marched over Verona. Oh wait, William never wrote that. The overall screen time wasted on the peripheral, fruitless sub-plot could have been used to better depict the romance.

But that would do no good either. The principle characters of the film, Prateik as Rahul and Amyra as Bachchi, leave you utterly dissatisfied. In most of their romantic encounters, you want to stop them and request a re-take. In fact, the lousy effort from Amyra who speaks with a Western accent and then goes on to pronounce words like “Sa-pecial” makes it utterly ridiculous. However, it is fitting then, that our Romeo, Prateik, compliments his Juliet with a lousy performance of his own. We have waited too long for him to live up to his potential (and genes) and this is as good a time as any to give up.

Makarand Deshpande, who plays a yogi baba (with a Naxalite back-story as well), is the herb-smoking rendition of the Apothecary. And whatever herb it is that he was puffing, make sure you do too (if you want to watch the film without wanting to stab yourself). A few other secondary characters have indeed given appreciable performances, like Rajeshwari Sachdev in a role parallel to Capulet’s wife and Ravi Kissen as (one might infer) Tybalt. But throughout his loud role, he never touches the “Peace? Peace. I hate the word.” sentiment. The film initially has its characters perform in a theatrical manner but loses the poetic dramatisation somewhere in the middle.

Relocating a five hundrend year old story into an alien setting is quite a task, but we have seen films where it has been done with ease and grace. From Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood to Bhardwaj’s Maqbool – there are numerous examples where Shakespeare’s tales have been beautifully re-enacted on screen. However, Issaq simply adds too many elements to its narrative and in maintaining all of them, presents a dismal finished product.

The film has given Shakespeare’s last words in Romeo and Juliet, “For never was a story of more woe. Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” a new meaning.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Published in DNA (Pune) on July 27, 2013

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