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Millennium Post

What a way to say no going back!

In the post-377 atmosphere of despair and legitimised discrimination, we have been graced with a mainstream Bollywood film that dares to walk the crooked line. Vishal Bharadwaj’s Dedh Ishqiya is not just an ode to every other non-normative expression of sexuality and sensuality, it also a brave attempt on the part of the artistes involved in the making of the film, including its cine stars, chiefly Madhuri Dixit and, Huma Qureshi, Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, to queer the pitch, as it were, of the commercial Hindi cinema. It is a toast to not just the nawabi culture practiced and Urdu language still spoken in pockets of Hindi heartlands, it is equally evocation of a mood, part pensive, part challenging, that had hitherto emanated from the fringes of collective cultural imagination but now has spread its wings to occupy centrestage. There is little joy left for not only the people of LGBT community but also those whose freedom of sexuality has been completely thwarted by the utterly regressive Supreme Court verdict recriminalising homosexuality. Hence, the sweet antics and subtly subversive machinations of Begum Para and Munira come across as a whiff of fresh air for everyone grossly let down by the 11 December 2013 ruling.

Dedh Ishqiya is brilliant at various levels. It is a cinematic nod, not a fleeting nudge-wink reference but a full-on acknowledgement, of Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf, a literary masterpiece that portrayed the goings-on of the zenanakhana (the women’s sanctum sanctorum) in the light of pervasive nawabi preference of young boys (laundebaazi). The film translates Lihaaf by transposing it to the dynamic present time, when begums have iPhones and fancy cars, but are neck-deep in debts. Yet by situating the heart of the film in the emotional bond between Para and Munira, their self-sustained little universe of touches and tears, Dedh Ishqiya has done the delightfully unprecedented.
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