Ishaqzaade, 2012

Love in a small town isn’t that different from love in the big city, but when that small town is in the dusty plains of the Hindi heartland where the local politics is fiercely colored in religious and ethnic differences, love has a hard time thriving.  This is an open secret, no matter how intense the love or the lovers that fight to keep it alive.  Because the sad fact is that love under such circumstances doesn’t stand a chance.

A very thoughtful screenplay presents a modern day Romeo and Juliet-style story that would do the Bard proud. Played with brilliant finesse by the two leading actors, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, this is a classic love story that goes a step further with a twist in the middle before returning to the classic “no good can come of this union” ending.  Ms.Chopra is particularly remarkable for portraying the pampered daughter in a house full of men who loves her guns as much as her jhumkis, and comes off as a strong character who knows what she thinks she wants and goes after it despite the odds.

If there’s one theme that Bollywood knows well, it is that of vengeance and vendetta, and while this is the overarching leitmotif, there is surprisingly another strong undercurrent of the very opposite nature of that theme– something bordering on the concept of forgiveness that is explored just briefly, but not long enough to have allowed for a redemptive element to the story.  It is the young man’s mother who proposes breaking away from the endless loop of seeking revenge but in the end, more blood must be spilled.  Where is the redemption, if ever?  What a piece of work is man– sometimes not even a second look let alone a tear escapes when there is news of a loved one’s untimely death.  To borrow a phrase from the Bard, is all really well with the world?

All things considered, this is a thoughtful yet dramatic piece of story-telling.  A centuries old tale is retold with an infusion of present-day realism touching on the age-old differences of caste and creed in a land that is as diverse as it is stubborn, perhaps even senseless.

Ishaqzaade-poster

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