Read on, for I've just poured my take on this new film.
It is a daunting task to transcreate a Shakespearean text for the Indian screen. And, I am saying this despite most of our mainstream films having had a lot to borrow from Shakespeare, consciously or unconsciously. We have done to death the Romeo and Juliet love story without really making a proper cinematic adaptation of the bard's text. Hence, when the promos of 'Issaq' first started airing with the name William Shakespeare highlighted, I was super-excited. I liked the casting too. Prateik Babbar, Ravi Kissen, Prashant Narayanan, Makarand Deshpande, Sudhir Pande, Neena Gupta, Vineet Kumar Singh, Evelyn Sharma were in the cast - known names who raised expectations, and the newcomer Amyra Dasur was cast as Juliet. Prateik and Amyra looked good together as the eponymous lovers in the songs that whetted my appetite. The songs were quite good too, especially the title track sung by Mohit Chauhan (other songs were situational numbers, all with the rustic flavor of Banaras which formed the backdrop in this transcreation).
Finally, as soon as the film arrived in the theater, I rushed to the nearest multiplex to catch the drama unfold. Again, the classic tale of doomed romance, of star-crossed lovers. Mind you, I wasn't a fan of it when I had read a retelling of the drama, in my school book, but warmed up to it only after reading the original play, as an outcome of my new-found fondness for Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film 'Romeo + Juliet'.
As I entered the auditorium, I mentally lauded the makers for daring to boast that theirs was an authentic adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in the Indian context, with guns and bullets, and the politician-goonda nexus, and the sand mafia, and the colors of Banaras. But then the film began...... and, as it progressed, came the disappointment, disgust and despair, in varying degrees.
Alas! The filmmaker (Manish Tiwary) seems to have been catapulted by an imagination fermented by the bard alright but he has definitely failed to exploit the potential that the concept offered. The idea was to Indianize the text with contemporary realistic touches, and that yielded itself to portions which do manage to generate interest. However, the worst part was that that the film suffers from faulty scripting, sloppy editing, and a complete lack of credibility and coherence. Maybe the pressure to deliver was too much to handle. An improper weightage given to complex characters, and half-baked associations to eke out the rich dramatic intensity and texture of the Shakespearean play have tragically rendered chastisement by critics and masses inescapable. I am feeling particularly sorry for Prateik Babbar whose Romeo act has been lampooned and some viewers (which even includes the person I went to see the film with) have even christened him desi Spiderman for having attempted to scale the walls so bravely....... hahaha.