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Monday, July 29, 2013

'Issaq': 'Romeo and Juliet' revisited

With 'Issaq', William Shakespeare's famous tragedy has been revisited but has the outcome been laudable...... or laughable? Will it make Shakespeare turn in his grave?
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.


Joy said...

'Issaq' was a bold attempt to contemporize Shakespeare yet again, but unfortunately it way too flawed to make a mark.

sumit said...

When I first heard that Prateik Babbar would be playing Romeo on the big screen, I thought it was a good casting call. I had even heard some talks about casting Prateik opposite Hema Malini's younger daughter Ahana who was to debut in films with her Juliet act, and that film was supposed to be directed by Aparna Sen. That never happened and this one, ISSAQ, was what we were doled out instead.... a damp squib, alas!!!!

saurabh said...

I think films like 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak' and 'Ishaqzaade' have brought to screen the doomed love theme of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' more poignantly, in the context and format of mainstream Bollywood, without trying to recreate the bard's dramaturgy, than 'Issaq' which had attempted to stay true to the text but has miserably failed on the whole.

diya said...

I watched ISSAQ despite the unfavorable reviews....... because I am a huge fan of Prateik! Please, please, please don't blame me for not hating the film as much as most of you viewers.
Honestly, I feel that the fim was panned by the audience largely because of the William Shakespeare tag. Had the baggage of reworking a Shakespearan text not been there, the complaints would have been fewer.

Akshay G. said...

Even the upcoming 'RamLeela' from Sanjay Leela Bhansali is supposedly a reworking of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'! I hope it does justice to the bard's love saga.