Dedh Ishqiya

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Dedh Ishqiya (Abhishek Chaubey, 2014)

There is this incredibly annoying habit of ‘fringe Bollywood’ filmmakers to try and over-complicate a story for the sake of making it seem complex. It’s a wholly structural trick, cutting in the middle of a dramatic sequence and then jumping ahead leaving the audience in limbo about what just happened, only to come back to it later and reveal everything anyway. These films are just as dubious in script and presentation as mainstream Bollywood films, only cloaked in a thin veil of complexity because their narratives jump back and forth between present and past.

The only reason Abhishek Chaubey cut right as Naseer’s character was shot was because he wanted to trick us into believing that he was dead. The problem is that this is a Bollywood film, which means that literally nothing is at stake. There is no real sense of danger because the 2 main characters have been established from the first film itself to be basically immortal considering all of the ridiculously convenient consequences that fall into their favor at every turn. At the same time, Chaubey’s inconsistency shines through when sequence after sequence, the art direction and authenticity of locale tries so hard to make us believe in the world as real. You can’t have it both ways. This isn’t The Adventures of Tintin.

But Chaubey treats it this way, because despite his attempts to make a gritty thriller, he, like most Bollywood filmmakers, can’t help staying away from the nautanki** usage of deus ex machina regardless of how inappropriate the situation is. I could make the same statement I made with Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns… if a spaceship came down and abducted the main characters, it wouldn’t be much more ridiculous than what was already going on.  All Chaubey really has to do for his characters is turn a sequence into a comedic farce to downplay all the tension and then simply allow his characters to walk away. There is a scene in the film where Khalujan starts getting beat up by Jaan Mohammed and Babban ends up stealing the guy’s gun, and they have an old fashioned intense standoff… the sequence is then directly taken into comedy when Babban asks if they’re really going to stand here all night pointing guns at each other. The scene does a time-lapse into morning with everyone still in the same position. It was one of the dumbest and laziest attempts at comic relief ever because the scene suddenly became boring and inconsequential. The tension, the grit, the danger was the exciting part… the comedy was just stale and it turned all the great build-up into a “oh well” situation.

**’nautanki’ is an Indian theatrical form. It can also be colloquially used to mean nonsensical, dramatic, comical, or ridiculous.

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