Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sociopaths and the girls who love them: Ishaqzaade.

"Curse of the second half," they said. "Punishing the heroine," they said.

And I, like a fool, asked, "How bad can it be?"

It turns out, so bad I cannot even discuss this film without getting into all the various spoilersome niggles I had with plot and characterization. For a short, spoiler-free version, here's my take: 

I was never bored during Ishaqzaade, to the credit of the film's production. However, what promised to be an action-packed Romeo & Juliet tale of two young lovers (fresh faces Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor), their families divided in political and religious rivalry, ended up being quite the dysfunctional mess. While there's some good - music, Parineeti Chopra's acting - there's just so much bad I'm not quite sure I'd recommend it. 

And now, onto the SPOILERS...

If there was any justice in the world, somewhere half-way through the film, Parineeti's Zoya would have had a switch flip in her head and she would've gone full-on Urmila-in-EHT, avenging the injustice that befell her in the most mind-bogglingly gruesome manner imaginable. I would've enjoyed that, especially as I loved Parineeti in this - she's so solid for a newbie, lively in her expressions, believable in her sorrow. I'd rate her as highly as Anushka Sharma, my other favourite among the young recently debuted actresses.

Unfortunately, that doesn't happen, and instead the film decides to have various female characters (first Parma's mother, then the prostitute with the heart of gold Chand) tell her that her love is what will cure the incredibly sociopathic male lead Parma. How unhealthy is this message? I'm all for the cliché of a woman's love curing a criminal, but considering this is the very same guy who completely and utterly messed up Zoya's life, in the cruelest, most calculating and cold manner possible, I'm not so sure he's all there for the curing. After such unforgivable actions, how can she trust him, let alone anybody? The message is harmful, to say the least. That man who had no regard for your feelings, wishes or honour? That abusive jerk? Stay with him, because you're the one who might turn him from an animal into a human being.

So instead of him getting his due comeuppance, instead the film builds toward a situation where they're both so utterly screwed they kind of have to be with one another. Is this romantic? Not even in the most tragic sense do I feel it is. I'm known to enjoy some pretty troubled, dysfunctional couples - love doesn't always have to exist in a problem-free, cushioned environment. But this here is just beyond the pale. When Zoya is shown to forgive Parma, finally, and the two marry properly, I don't get the sense that everything will be okay for these crazy kids, because at least now they've got each other. No, instead I'm stuck on thinking how this is more or less her Stockholm Syndrome'd by the circumstances into this marriage with him. Love him or perish, you're screwed either way, might as well...

It would help if the character of Parma was fleshed out or shown to be a little more respectful of Zoya's feelings and opinions. Instead he comes off as the sort of brat he acted like when he was deceiving her, conning her into the fake marriage. Does he end up deserving her forgiveness? Not even an inch of it. Arjun Kapoor might be an okay actor, but his talents so far did not stretch to give the role the sort of innate humanity that the character really desperately needed. I ended up hating Parma, and mistrusting his every action, no matter how genuine. He was rotten, and even if consequences lead him to abandon his initial loyalties, it does not redeem him in my eyes.

The final disclaimer gives some sense of why things went they way they did, why the movie doesn't cheer for progress or display any, and things go back to the status quo, as if nothing ever really happened in the first place. On the other hand, I'm sure a lot of these real life stories of ishqazaade (love rebels according to the film's own translation) are ten-fold in romance than the movie paying tribute to their lives.

So why did the film makers make these bizarre choices to "jazz up" what could've been a really good tale of love against all odds? I'll never know, nor will I ever understand. In the end you're also left wondering the inhumanity of an ideology where "honour" turns your own children into mere possessions that you only care to destroy to salvage your own "respect". What a cruel world it can be...


Martha said...

. I couldn´t agree more. Like you, I´m all for the "Redeeming-The-Bad-Guy-Through-Love" storyline but the movie just so completely messed it up! There was no redemption whats-o-ever in my opinion, at the end of the movie Parma was still pretty much the same guy as before, having never really understood what he did wrong. I got the feeling that he only came around to Parineeti because his mother told him so as her death wish but never on his own accord. In fact, none of the characters learned anything, actually, which was really frustrating and made the film kind of pointless IMO. I never could believe in a love story in which the guy treated the girl in the most disgusting, cruelest way possible and then she forgives him? WTF!? Sorry for the strong words but the whole movie just left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was really disappointed with this.

veracious said...

Yep, this was just a mess. Also normally the "redeem-the-bad-guy-with-love", his crimes are something along the lines of being a robber, not screwing over the very woman who's then supposed to redeem him! The character development was nonexistent, even the cuteness of the first half gets sullied in the process.

The more I thought about this film, the less I enjoyed it.

Martha said...

Yes, exactly. He can be on all kinds of the wrong side but he´s not supposed to hurt HER. But Parma was just a bad guy, he had no sympathetic qualities that could have redeemed him. I really don´t understand how anyone in the world could have thought that this is a great story that needs to be told. And it´s just such a shame, because Parineeti is really great here and the songs are nice and the cinematography and action are good, too, but then we get just such a crappy story that never allowes us to get really involved because the characters are just so awfully, awfully wrong.

Red said...

Again, I fully agree with you, girl! I don't understand how many people loved this story and don't say a word about Parma's bad behaviour. He was such a jerk... You are right, film was interesting and Parineeti's a good actress but the other things you said in your review... The story wasn't believable, thanks to Parma/Arjun (how I don't like this actor after his first movie...)

I'm happy finally someone has same opinion as me about "Ishaqzaade"!

Jahangir said...

They deleted a scene from Ishaqzaade. You can watch this scene on YouTube where Parma cries desperately in front of Zoya begging her to forgive him. He tells her that if she doesn't forgive him, his deceased mother's soul won't be at peace ever. That scene really moved me. I know Parma has wronged Zoya to an extent that he doesn't deserve to be forgiven but that scene would have justified his plight had it not been deleted from the movie. And it would have explained to you why Zoya decided to forgive Parma since you are so much on the anti-Parma league.

veracious said...

Hey Jahangir & Red, sorry for a bit of a late reply.

Red - Yeah, I don't feel like everybody loved this film but some people definitely did, and hmm, more power to them for being able to enjoy it I guess.

Jahangir - It is very odd that they would cut out such a scene. It seems like perhaps the most important thing in a film like this is redemption for a character who has done the person they end up loving wrong. When the redemption is missing, it's not just odd but can taint the movie - it certainly did for me. I might go check out that scene, but since it's missing from the movie, it's missing from my experience with the movie. Why would they cut it? I can't understand it.