A love story rewritten

The story of writer-director Habib Faisal’s sophomore effort, Ishaqzaade, can be summarized in six words: Romeo and Juliet with a twist. Or as someone pointed out: Qayamat Se Qayamat Takin contemporary times.

The Chauhans and Qureishis are feuding political families from a small town in north India. Here, there is no law and order, but everyone has a gun which is used more as a fire cracker than as a weapon. Parma (Arjun Kapoor), the youngest scion of the Chauhan household, is a bad boy; a loose cannon desperate for his grandfather’s acceptance. Zoya (Parineeti Chopra) is the darling of the Qureishi household. A topper at college, she is politically ambitious and feisty.

Worth a watch: Arjun Kapoor makes a respectable debut and Parineeti Chopra is a revelation in Ishaqzaade

Aditya Chopra and Faisal write an engaging first half, introducing us to two families that are as similar as they are disparate. Parma and Zoya are built up nicely and their youthful romance is infectious.

But once the twist is revealed, you return to the second half unable to fully grasp what the writers wanted to say. The end is obvious much in advance, so there is only one thing left to do: Enjoy Chopra’s performance as Zoya.

She is a revelation—fresh, spontaneous, likeable and incredibly confident. Chopra towers above all else. When stuck for an idea on how to perform, Kapoor goes to his default expression—like Abhishek Bachchan circa 2004, to smile widely within his beard. He makes a respectable but unimpressive debut.

Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography, Amit Trivedi’s music and Faisal’s direction are the soul of this fated love story. The director captures small-town India perfectly and builds up his characters with requisite vigour. In spite of the choppy second hour, Ishaqzaade is still worth a watch.

The Forest

A man-eating leopard on the prowl and a childless married couple facing a crisis of fidelity in the dark jungle night, is a great set-up. Inspired by Jim Corbett’s stories about maneaters, director Ashvin Kumar builds in drama, suspense and shock. He gets you from the opening scene, setting up the fear that is going to permeate the next 80-odd minutes of screen time.

The images of wildlife, jungle scenes and even the adrenalin rush of a leopard lurking in the shadows will make you want to experience the excitement of an Indian wildlife holiday. Of course, you hope there are no maneaters around. But Kumar also touches on the delicate balance between man and nature being challenged every day.

City couple Pritam (Ankur Vikal) and Radha (Nandana Sen) try to repair their marriage by taking a jungle holiday. They run into Radha’s former paramour Abhishek (Jaaved Jafferi), a jungle guard, who lives with his teenage son Arjun (Saleem Ali Zaidi). Abhishek’s almost evil determination to ensnare Radha is incomprehensible. Even as Abhishek tries to drive a wedge between Pritam and Radha, a wounded leopard is on the hunt for prey, circling the jungle lodge where the four principal protagonists are holed up.

Kumar builds in some scares using the background music and camerawork effectively. Unfortunately, the climax does not live up to the build-up. The unnatural English dialogues and the theatrical acting by the three adult actors jar the most. Zaidi is believable as the son who loses a hero.

This movie with a message is not for the faint-hearted but for those with a stomach for thrills.

Dark Shadows

Not camp enough: Dark Shadows is a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp venture

The story begins in 1750. It establishes how Depp, as playboy Barnabas Collins, was cursed by a witch, became a vampire and was buried alive in a coffin. One-hundred-and-ninety-six years later, Barnabas is set free.

It is now 1972 and Barnabas has to adjust to the future and the crumbling remains of his family estate still occupied by some relatives. Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) becomes his confidante. However, in-house physician Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) is suspicious of this pale man who sleeps through the day. Barnabas must also contend with the family’s nemesis Angelique and the family governess Vicky’s (Bella Heathcote’s) startling resemblance to his lost love Josette.

In true Burton style, the visual effects are stunning, especially the passionate encounter between Barnabas and Angelique. The acting is the biggest winner—especially Eva Green as Angelique, Pfeiffer and Depp, who brings his trademark deadpan humour to the part. As the misfit in the 1970s, he’s pitch perfect.

The Twilight series has spoilt it for all vampire films. So now when fated lovers Barnabas and Vicky try to find a solution to their star-crossed love story, you can expect only one conclusion.

Even though Burton elevates the film visually with the help of special effects, art direction, music and cinematography, the story flounders in finding its genre. It’s neither horror, nor comedy and just not camp enough.

Ishaqzaade, The Forest and Dark Shadows released in theatres on Friday.

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