After having watched Ishqiya a couple of years ago, I was somewhat eager to watch the sequel, the brilliantly-named Dedh Ishqiya. This film has the same elements that gave the first installment its chutzpah: the dusty rural milieu of the heartland of the country, punchy dialog, a certain unapologetic and very adult sense of humor, and of course the 'criminal caper' elements.
The two lead characters, Babban and Khalu are back, needless to say. Involved in yet another jewel heist, they again incur the wrath of the brother-in-law Mushtaq who also appeared in Ishqiya. This time though, Babban has been betrayed by Khalu and they eventually meet in a gathering hosted by Begum Para of Mehmudnagar.
The Begum is portrayed by Madhuri Dixit, and I was looking forward to watching her on the big screen again. Luminous and graceful as ever, she is perfectly cast as the anxious, mysterious and somewhat desperate widowed Begum. Her sidekick, Muniya played by one Huma Qureshi, is interesting as well. In fact the relationship between the two women is intriguing as lesbian overtones are suggested in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
The underrated Arshad Warsi as Babban and the superb Naseeruddin Shah as Khalu enjoy themselves to the hilt. An added dimension is the beautiful Urdu poetry and dialog throughout the film. (There were subtitles that I initially scoffed at, but was later grateful for.) Vijay Raaz is Jaan Muhammad, Begum's suitor and small-time politician and crook.
The entire cast is pitch-perfect and I could not pick a favorite. All in all I enjoyed the movie though the pace felt slower than Ishqiya and certain scenes could have had tighter editing. Still, I would give a high rating here simply for the authenticity portrayed through the characters and their motivations. Also worth mentioning is the lovely old mansion, or rather, castle that the Begum lives in; its peeling plaster and moody colors are lovingly captured as the incongruous backdrop to the hectic lives of the protagonists. Now I wonder if there will be a third in the line-up: Dhai Ishqiya, perhaps?