- A love triangle that begins in Banaras and ends in Mumbai
- Directed by Rajiv Ruia (My Friend Ganesha, Zindagi 50-50)
- The film is silly, flimsy and utterly whimsical
There's nothing more tragic than watching an actor severely out of depth. It's like watching an enthusiastic child unable to reach the cookie jar because he/she is too short. Here, there are three such actors - all leads - as well as the writer, director, action director, cinematographer and editor.
They've made the kind of film that even those frisky matinee show college couples will think twice before entering. It's occasionally awful and consistently harebrained. There's also nothing more tragic than hearing fake exclamations ("kya baat hai! Badhiya!") at a preview screening because the crew lurks around the hall.
'Direct Ishq' seems like the kind of movie title conjured up on the spot because all the other 'Ishq' titles were registered. It has nothing to do with the heroine falling "directly" in love with one of the two heroes only after he manhandles her and tells her she is worthless, egoistic and needs a reality check. This happens a few minutes after she sings one of three feminist rock ballads to establish that she is a spunky 'fuljhadi' small-town girl.
The songs aren't half bad, especially the ones with throaty female vocals; no surprise that Sufi band Raeth is one of the names behind them. They will however feel a bit shortchanged when they discover that the on-screen band they're lending their music to involves an obscene gay caricature and a greasy middle-aged drummer.
Leading them is Dolly Pandey (Nidhi Subbaiah), an aspiring rock star in Banaras. She falls for Kabir (Arjun Bijlani), a big-shot Mumbai resident who promises to make her famous if she pretends to be his girlfriend (don't ask). This deal, of course, establishes that she is a dignified struggler. But what is a B-grade musical without a love triangle?
Rajneesh Duggal is the last actor you'd expect to see as a gun-toting tapori and Raanjhana-obsessive lover. As party president Vicky Shukla, he brandishes a hinterland dialect that makes him sound like he is humoring infants. He has the most sincere face, yet he walks around like he has just watched Dabangg and Wanted on an empty stomach.
When he follows the couple to Mumbai, the film goes from wannabe Ishaqzaade to Issaq. Airheaded rival singers, evil label partners, Maharashtrian dons operating from a shipyard, screening cop gypsies - things go from Subhash Ghai to Madhur Bhandarkar in no time.
Someone should sit the makers down and tell them that lit frames don't need to reveal their bright sources - as if everything were a strobe-lit concert venue. One look at a fight or song or market sequence and you can almost hear the assistant directors struggling to control the crowds, the director losing his patience, junior artistes out of positions and the general chaos behind the scenes.
There also seemed to be an opportunity to make Dolly a subversive and genuinely badass persona - the kind most athlete biopics thrive on. All is forgotten when she is kidnapped, teary, rescued, protected, exploited and torn between two men soon after. You can take the woman out of Bollywood, but not Bollywood out of the woman.
Eventually, the director has no clue how to direct Ishq and its moods. See what I did there?