Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya (2014)

DedhIshqiya4 Stars (out of 4)

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There are times when the most appropriate review of a really good movie boils down to: “GO WATCH THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW!” Dedh Ishqiya merits such praise.

Dedh Ishqiya combines many genres by being equal parts comedy, thriller, mystery, and romance, with a bit of action thrown in as well. The particular combination gives the movie its own unique flavor that builds on the tone of its predecessor, Ishqiya. Writer-director Abhishek Chaubey and his co-writer/producer, Vishal Bhardwaj, create a wonderful, distinct world for their two thieving protagonists: Khalu (Naseeruddin Shah) and his nephew, Babban (Arshad Warsi).

The events of the sequel pick up with the two crooks still in debt to Khalu’s brother-in-law, Mushtaq (Salman Shahid). The pair get separated during a jewel heist, until Babban discovers Khalu posing as a poet hoping to woo an aristocrat’s widow.

The lovely widow, Para (Madhuri Dixit-Nene), and her protective assistant, Muniya (Huma Qureshi), aim to find the widow a new husband via a poetry contest. Khalu’s main competitor is Jaan Mohammad (Vijay Raaz), a gangster desirous of a more respectable social position.

Khalu and Babban are great, dynamic characters. Babban’s lack of impulse control drives most of the laughs, while Khalu’s romantic nature causes problems in his professional life. Aspiring Romeos should study Shah’s performance for how to properly look like you’re in love with a woman. Stare at a woman the way Khalu stares at Para, and she’s yours.

Dixit-Nene and Qureshi get the meatier roles, both because their characters are new and because Khalu and Babban wear their hearts on their sleeves. The women are complex and intriguing, but not cagey. We want to know more, and they draw the audience in as easily as they do the thieves.

As mentioned above, Khalu and Para have wonderful chemistry. They both find themselves in a position to finally live for themselves, rather than on behalf of other people in their lives. At 46, Dixit-Nene would in reality be a very young widow, but she brings such grace and wisdom to the role that she gives the impression of being older than she looks.

The relationship between Babban and Muniya is more tumultuous and results in some entertaining gender-role reversals. Babban’s role as pursuer is short-lived, and Muniya quickly steers them into a physical relationship. Fearing that Muniya doesn’t share his romantic feelings, he worries that she thinks he’s nothing but a whore: an ironic twist, given his own fondness for prostitutes.

Raaz is perfectly sleazy as the wannabe aristocrat, though not so sinister as to detract from the movie’s humorous tone. Manoj Pahwa, who frequently plays broad comic characters, gets a more subdued role as a poet forced to aid the gangster. The payoff for Pahwa’s character is simply amazing.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s music is terrific, as always. The dilapidated mansion in which most of the story takes place is gorgeous. And we get to see Madhuri Dixit-Nene dance! There’s nothing not to love about Dedh Ishqiya.


30 thoughts on “Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya (2014)

    1. Kathy

      It’s a movie that really respects its audience, Ashok. I also appreciate that Chaubey and Bhardwaj made this for an adult audience, without pulling any punches to make it more family-friendly. Call the babysitter, leave the kids at home, and have a nice, grown-up night out!

  1. Nav

    hi Kathy :finally the review is here! Movie was very good…but I would’ve liked it to be slightly higher on the suspense quotient. Also, shah-nene dance encounter in the past wasn’t developed properly & it should’ve been omitted. What do you think? Also, do you have any expectations from next week’s release ‘jai ho ‘?

    1. Kathy

      I think the number you’re referring to is less of a “dance encounter” and more a depiction of character growth. It’s a rebirth for Para. Also, I’m never going to be disappointed by a chance to watch Madhuri dance. πŸ™‚

      As for Jai Ho, I expect that Salman will beat up a lot of people.

  2. JustMeMike

    Thank for this fine review. I’ve been anxious to hear and read about this film. I think you were probably eager to see it as well. Especially since you had to sit through that waste of time, KPK, which earned 0 stars,

    Sounds like you didn’t miss Vidya Balan since the replacements (Madhuri and Huma) performed so well.

    I’ll see this one first chance I get whether that will be via Erosnow, or I get an opportunity to buy the DVD.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for the link, Keyur. I’m obsessed with Huma, too! She’s joined Vidya Balan and Kalki Koechlin as the actresses I’m most interested to watch. They always choose interesting projects, without concern over whether they are the headlining star or not. (If we’re talking actors, too, add Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpayee, Emraan Hashmi, and Abhay Deol to the group.)

      1. Keyur Seta

        I completely agree with you, Kathy. I have more respect for actors who sign films just because they like the subject and not by taking box office into consideration. They are real artists πŸ™‚

  3. Bhanu

    The movie is loosely based on a short story Lihaaf (The Quilt) by Ismat Chughtai. In fact its all about the relationship between Begam(Madhuri) and her partner/ accomplice(Huma). Everything else in the movie is just a filler. Do read the following post and the short story linked within to appreciate the efforts of filmmakers and Chughtai even more: .

    Its probably one of the most important movies in Indian cinema.

  4. parth

    Hey kathy,
    Recently I found your blog and I’m hooked to it. Loved your reviews as they are deep and not just on surface. πŸ˜€ I watched it on first day first show and had watched it three times on big screen since. I’m just hooked to the movie. There are so many great things in the movie. I am ardently in love with this movie. Urdu is used so effectively, the look, the lighting, the lost time and the humour of the movie. Just perfect. Though I would like to mention one thing, I hope it’s not a spoiler but I’ll put it under spoiler.


    The bisexual relationship between two female is I think the central plot of the movie. In one scene when babban and khalu are tied when huma and madhuri are playing and their shadow is shown becoming one and khalu says “Lihaaf mang le”. English sub was “ask for heat”. It’s homage to the short story Lihaaf by celebrated writer Ishmat Chugtai written in 1942 which deals with homoerotism and homosexuality between begum para and her maid.

    This story line is weaven in movie so well. Its a great piece of writing.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for the kind words, Parth! I’m glad you found my site. πŸ™‚

      Dedh Ishqiya got me thinking about the rules governing the way women display physical affection (with other women) in Hindi movies. I didn’t know anything about “Lihaaf” or it’s connection to Dedh Ishqiya when I saw the movie, yet it was obvious to me that the relationship between Para and Muniya was a romantic one. Why? They don’t say that they are in love with each other, we don’t see them kiss, and Muniya even has sex with Babban.

      The only times we see them make intimate physical contact — apart from a comforting hug or Muniya helping Para get dressed — is on the two occasions when they get drunk. They laugh and hang on each other, and this is supposed to indicate that they are closer than just master and servant. Yet the way the women drunkenly carry on is no different than the way Babban and Khalu act when they get wasted — singing, hugging, falling over — so why does it have a different meaning?

      I don’t have an answer, I just thought it was odd that I even noticed it. Why did I assume that these women were lesbians when male characters in Hindi movies often sing and hug each other while drunk, and I don’t assume they are gay? It’s strange.

      1. parth

        That is very true. In hindi movies the relationship between males and females are really opposite. Other than great Boom πŸ˜› there isn’t a single female friendship centric movie in bollywood.

        Begum and muniya both doing same things that khalu and babban do when they get high still I guess mr. Abhishek took the central story of lihaaf we can conclude about the intimate relationship. Still in general things are really different for same sex physical relationship.

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