Writer and director Abhishek Chaubey follows up his rompy revenge caper Ishqiya (2010) with a sequel, Dedh Ishqiya, a terrific entertainer about friendships and the ways in which human beings form bonds for solace and dreams. When I am m by the crassly sexist ethos that governs Hindi films today, Ishqiya is one of the films I like to think of. Here too, like in the first, Chaubey keeps his light, humorous touch intact without failing to smuggle in the class and gender politics crucial to the story.

The same pair of dirty rotten scoundrels wearing big hearts on their sleeves, khalujaan Iftekhar (Naseeruddin Shah) and nephew Babban (Arshad Warsi) are once again embroiled in difficult love affairs and family intrigue; only here the credo of powerful womanhood is complemented by a friendship and camaraderie that is indeed remotely reminiscent of Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, 1991). There are no ingenuous twists and the end is unnecessarily elongated with a pell-mell combat partly set to the notes of a ghazal. In our films, long and bloated climaxes are a chronic affliction, you can’t escape them. But a little disbelief seems a small price to pay for being allowed to remain in such entertaining company.

Shah competes with poets to win Dixit’s heart
Shah competes with poets to win Dixit’s heart

The villain is the local MLA Jaan Mohammad (Vijay Raaz) who has captured a serious poet from Kanpur (Manoj Pahwa) to help him win Begum Para’s heart. The duel between the Kanpuri poet and Jaan Mohammad, a man from the streets with nawabi aspirations, is one of the best motifs of the film, climaxing in a hilariously campy sequence that could be titled “Vengeance of the Poet". While Ishqiya was more Warsi’s film, this film seems to be written (the story by Darab Farooqui and the screenplay, charged with linguistic acrobatics, by Chaubey and Vishal Bhardwaj) for Shah, although there is a distinctly sluggish gear in the stalwart’s ride through the film. In films (as opposed to his theatre), I nowadays miss Shah’s invention and passion, although a mediocre Naseeruddin Shah performance still means effective acting. Warsi’s comic energy and timing is unerring.

Qureshi and Dixit are the film’s emotional and narrative axis

The pastiche that encompasses all the lunacy and glamour in Dedh Ishqiya is complemented by its splendidly evocative music by Bhardwaj. There are no big surprises or transformative moments in it, but the various flavours come through just right.

Dedh Ishqiya releases in theatres on Friday

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