Every few weeks, I go back to read one of my favorite reviews of one of my favorite films by Baradwaj Rangan. Rangan's review of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is so nuanced that I read it again and again to understand and learn how to write (also, worth mentioning is that his review of Delhi 6 is equally splendid). He says Karan Johar's film is one of the meatiest romantic melodramas since Lamhe, and I completely agree. In the review, he writes, "When Dev and Maya finally admit to their spouses that they are in love, Rishi flies into a rage and begins to break things around the house, while Ria remains calm and collected. Rishi wants to know if Maya enjoyed sleeping with Dev, but Ria asks Dev if he’s in love with Maya; the man is more concerned with the sexual aspect of the betrayal while Ria, all woman, tries to come to grips with the emotional implications." It is a brilliant point. As I watched Habib Faisal's Daawat-E-Ishq, this point came back to me and I saw somewhat of a reversal in the ideas and viewpoints of a man and a woman in this film. Daawat-E-Ishq is the story of Gulrez Qadir (Parineeti Chopra), who after being tired of getting rejected by many men because of dowry, decides to con a chef Tariq Haider (Aditya Roy Kapur) in a false dowry case to extract money from him to fulfill her dream of going to America. What I found interesting was the depiction of Gulrez and Tariq in contrast to the conventional gender dynamics depicted in our cinema and different from the one in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Gulrez is raised by a single father and she is the one who drops him to work everyday on her scooty, as opposed to a father dropping a daughter to work. She barely cooks and it is her father who packs lunch for her everyday when she leaves for work. When they are eating out at a restaurant, she is the one who pays the bill instead of her father. After being jilted in love by louts, Gulrez says she does not want to get married to any guy as all of them are the same. Although she is not against the idea of love and marriage per se, she is not excited by them either. He room is full of posters of the Statute of Liberty (perhaps a reference to freedom), and she wants to go America to become a shoe designer.
Daughter drives a father
Even Tariq does not fit exactly in the mould of a traditional Hindi film hero. He is a chef of a restaurant. What stood out for Tariq was his feelings. Gulrez might not care for love but he says he will marry the one who loves him. Karunga [shaadi] to usi se jo mujhe itna saara nahi, itna sa to pyaar kare. A man caring for love, and a woman not really interested in love—a very interesting premise—that was also explored in Danish Aslam's Break Ke Baad. He is so humble that he tells Gulrez that if she is looking for a body builder types, he is not the one. She is an MBA, but he tells her that he is 12th fail (reminded of Akbar's humble admission to Jodha in Jodhaa Akbar that he can't read and write).
At one point, she is trying to get him thrown out of her room, and he entices her by making her smell the delicious kababs cooked by him. And, we always thought that a way to man's heart is through his stomach, perhaps even to a woman's heart, too, or at the risk of being labelled a sexist, Gulrez is as much a man here, and Tariq is as much as a woman here—basing solely on conventional thinking. She defeats him in panja ladana. Gulrez is more ambitious and wants money; she even convinces her dad to join in her plan. When they go out for a day of 'Gunjing' in Lucknow, she is the one who drives him around in the car as opposed to he driving her around. She is the driver. It is great to see films with strong women characters that are breaking the glass ceiling. This year, Samar Shaikh's Bobby Jasoos also showed a woman, Bilkis (Vidya Balan), who wanted to be detective—an unconventional passion for a woman. She is the not the Kitty as women are, typically, shown (remember Sameera Reddy or Amisha Patel in Race and Race 2, respectively) but she is Karamchand. What is also heartening is that these are Muslim women belonging to families that are not exactly at higher end of economic spectrum, and these women are trying to make a mark for themselves. That is why I felt Daawat-E-Ishq had different gender dynamics, unlike other films.
She is the driver
Bobby is Karamchand and not Kitty
Tariq, played by Aditya Roy Kapur, is charming. He is one of the most thoughtful male characters. He is caring. He wants someone to love him. He is understanding, like he knows how difficult it must have been for Gulrez's father to raise her after her mother's death. He is true to himself and his feelings. He is humble. He does not care if she is thin or fat. He does not want to hurt his parents, so he gives his own money to Gulrez so that she can pass it off as dowry. When he is chasing Gulrez, he hits a woman who falls down and he stops to help her and apologizes, though Gulrez might just escape. Seriously, who would not fall in love with Tariq?
The detailing, like in any Habib Faisal film, is meticulous. The way the lunchbox is packed, the accents, the items in the house, the surroundings. Faisal brings some lovely touches. At one point, Gulrez and her father are meeting Amjad (Karan Wahi) and his parents, who ask for dowry. As soon as they ask the amount, a sound pops up in the backgorund, that of a sale banner being put on a building, as if the groom is on sale. When Tariq is chasing Gulrez, the autorickshaws convey some messages. So, when Gulrez runs away, we see Good Bye, and when Tariq is searching her in Hyderabad, we see Talaash written on the autorickshaws.
There is a lovely shot in the song Dil Ne Dastarkhwan Bichhaya in which Gulrez's face is shown on a plate in Tariq's hand. I loved Tariq's and Gulrez's conversations when they were 'Gunjing' in Lucknow.
Dil Ne Dastarkhwan Bichhaya
All of Habib Faisal's films have a touch of truth and lie in them. In Ishaqzaade, Parma (Arjun Kapoor) lies Zoya (Parineeti Chopra) into a relationship. Similar lying themes were explored in the films written by him, such as Do Dooni Chaar (a family lies that they own a car), Bewakoofiyaan (a boyfriend lies to his girlfriend's father), Tara Rum Pum (a father lies to his kids), Ladies vs Ricky Bahl (a conman falls in love with his nemesis), and Daawat-E-Ishq (a woman cons a man to extract dowry money). The only exception to this trend is Band Baajaa Baaraat. Also, his films have a very subjective morality, and that is why his films divide people. Think Ishaqzaade. No doubt, he is a thoughtful filmmaker, and I can't wait for Maneesh Sharma's next film, written by Faisal, Fan, starring Shah Rukh.
Dialogue of the day:
"Body ka kya hai, aaj dubli, kal moti. Thinking me honi chahiye na beauty."
— Gulrez, Daawat-E-Ishq