Romantic humour, starring Madhuri Dixit - Nene, Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Huma Qureshi, fulfills its purpose in making the viewer sit up and have a good laugh at the story line.
Two crooks, having stolen a precious necklace are caught and jailed. After coming out of the jail, Khalu, (Naseeruddin Shah) discovers another opportunity that has opened up for him. Began Para ( Madhuri Dixit), the unrequited in love and marriage wife of the Nawab of a princely state Mahmudabad, who has died, leaving all his wealth to her, has called for ‘application’ of all eligible men in the state to come compete to win her hand in marriage. The Nawab had made one condition though – the Begum, who was a dance girl, winning many hearts, must marry only someone who is a poet. Hence, a motley crowd of so called poets gather to show their poetic prowess.
In the meantime, it is revealed that the Begum, much disillusioned with her shohar, the now dead Nawab, whose only passion was for young males dressed in coiffure delicate suits, had indeed, developed an intimate relationship with her hand maid, Huma Qureshi. While a show of pretense is held for the choice of the right candidate, there are two things at play – one, Naseeruddin Shah discovers that in the motley crowd, his old friend and fellow thief Arshad Warsi, is there as well. Second, and more importantly, Huma along with the Begum have hatched their own plan to fool the entire lot of hopeful men, but they require a close ally who would help them execute their plan, without knowing what was going on behind his back.
Arshad, is that ally, the emotional target in the ploy, who is befriended by Huma and fooled into believing that she is in love with him. Indeed, their desire has culminated into a one-night-stand. Huma, manages to use him, to steal the wealth from the palace and then makes off with the Begam, to start a life with each other, starting a classical dancing school for young girls. The men are left high and dry and must meet their own fate in the hands of law once again.
While the mainline of the film is a comedy of errors, the film has borrowed marginally from the story Lihaaf by Ismat Chugtai.
In the original story, a similar situation is at play – the disillusioned Begum develops itches all over the body and needs the help of the maid to constantly scratch her, while her Nawab, a lover of art and young men, entertains himself with the choicest men, leaving his wife as if she were an artifact. In the original story, the Begum and her maid are depicted to be in a close intimate relationship, when their erotic kiss is displayed on the wall as a shadow. Indeed, the narrator of the story, the young child, is a spectator to the goings on, between the two, as she sees the ‘elephant’ in movement under the quilt – Lihaaf, thus telling the reader of physical, sexual activity going on.
The Madhuri Dixit – Nene starrer is not so bold and even though the kissing scene is imitated between her and Huma, as it appears in the original story, Dedh Ishqiya can hardly be considered a take-off from Lihaaf, although it tries to imitate it.
It is hardly a story of two women coming together, because of love. It is reflective of an escape route for the Begam, in the face of having a shohar, who is not interested in her body or emotions at all. Indeed, the storyline is comic with a twist.
Madhuri Dixit – Nene, has played a good come back role, using a dash of sensationalism but yet has not moved from the bedrock of what she stands for, the dhuk-dhuk girl of men. And there lies the Dedh Ishqiya – who is the Dedh, one and a half measure? Is he the Nawab first and the Begum half? Is it, Huma, the maid first, and the Nawab, half? Is it the loves of the Nawab, first and the Begam, half? While we think on, we can’t forget that Nasiruddin Shah and Begam Para had also gone past the first stage of love, in their past association, but had only been half fulfilled.
Dedh Ishqiya, makes a good attempt to break the cast of a story of two women, taking off with each other, in the backdrop of unrequited love from men thus remaining loyal to the hetero-normative patterns of social partnerships.
Ms Madhuri Dixit – Nene, knows which side her bread is buttered and where the money lies. Finally, it is in the hearts of men, and women, who might want to imitate/fall in love with her screen name, fame and beauty. She has already bagged one crore from Uttar Pradesh state government as a token of appreciation.
The same appreciation was not shown to even an actress of much deeper significance, Shabana Azmi. Or for that matter Nandita Das.
Got the message, now? Deal with it.
Please note: If you don’t know Urdu, which is the language you will hear most the dialogue in the movie, don’t fear. The desi-English subtitles help you through, somehow.
You may also like to read another review:
Or read Ismat Chugtai’s Lihaaf as presented in Manushi magazine