‘Ishq’ Movie Review: A Brilliant, Edgy Drama About A Road Trip Gone Wrong

There is a basic principle that’s followed by any storyteller worth his salt: Show, don’t tell.

That is when the director plays a moment out without spoon-feeding the audience on what we’re supposed to feel about what transpired. That is when the director trusts the emotional intelligence of the audience. That is when the director and the writer have faith in themselves.

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is a great way to set up characters. A great example of this is in the Hindi movie Udaan, where the dynamics of the father and the son are set up without a single word spoken. Another classic example is the beautiful first 5 minutes of Pixar’s Up. ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ can also add a great amount of tension to a scene, making the audience uneasy even if they cannot understand the source of that emotion. A great illustration of this would be in The Pub scene in Inglorious Basterds.

Malayalam movies usually treat their audience poorly. Big B is one of my favourite movies, and Bilal’s intro in the rain is hands down one of the best intro sequences in Malayalam cinema. But I gag every time it gets intercut to people looking directly into the camera and describing Bilal and his past to the audience.

And this is where Ishq shines.

Plot

Ishq is a story about Sachi (Shane Nigam), an IT employee, and his girlfriend Vasudha (Ann Sheetal), a college student, and their day-long road trip on her birthday. Before long, the couple gets targeted by two moral goons on the prowl in the city (played in a chillingly realistic manner by Shine Tom Chacko and Jafar Idukki).

Anuraj Manohar and Ratheesh Ravi weave a tale that’s a little bit about love and a whole lot about other things in this seemingly straightforward story. And they completely placed their trust in the actors to perform without any spoon-fed dialogues and placed full faith in the audience to understand the different themes at play here. That’s why I think what this movie warrant is a discussion, not a review.

Writing

Syam Pushkaran in recent interviews stated that Malayalam movies are in dire need of good writers. I firmly believe that Ratheesh Ravi would be a great addition to the new group of amazing writers that are cropping up in our industry. The way the “antagonists” act and react to the situations they’re presented with clearly shows that he’s done his research. Although for the most part it felt like the story was about the two men, and the women were just there to instigate a crucial incident, the climax actually provides some depth and dimensions to the Ann Sheetal’s Vasudha.

Direction

Anuraj Manohar makes a solid debut. And I’m already a fan of his with the way he dealt with one of the negative comments about the movie. It shows a director who believes in the work he put out.

He and the writer points to the mentality of society which hides behind the veil of culture and draws pleasure from antagonizing their victims. And he provides us with some of the most thrilling, uncomfortable, edge-of-the-seat moments in Malayalam cinema in recent memory.

Performances

This movie belongs to Shane Nigam and Shine Tom Chacko. They are who this movie is about, the ones who operate in different shades of grey throughout the movie. Both men deliver such impressive performances, especially towards the climax. There were moments in Shane’s performance where it reminded me of Mohanlal’s performance in the classic “Sadayam”. Shine Tom Chacko is on a roll. The guy really deserves to be put in more movies. Ann Sheethal was ample. Leona and Jafar Idukki elevated the scenes they’re in. Rest of the supporting cast did a decent job as well.

Editing

Editing by Kiran Das is in perfect rhythm with the movie. This is a movie that if not edited properly would’ve been a complete misfire. But I loved how restrained the editing is. Many of the scenes were allowed to play out in full and that’s what makes it more uncomfortable and sometimes downright creepy. I do have some issues with the way some songs were cut. But other than that, great job.

DOP

Ansarsha manages to capture the cuteness of the romance, the fear that comes with the night, the uneasiness of an uninvited advance and the discombobulation during a situation going south absolutely splendidly.

Music

After a rather loud and exhilarating background score for Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil, Jakes Bejoy returns. Though most of the score was meant to gel with the situation and enhance the emotions at play, there were times it felt like he let himself go a little bit. The background music during the climax was a misfire in my opinion. The songs were sweet, with Sid Sriram crooning “Parayuvaan…” already topping the chartbusters.

Verdict

Even though this movie going experience was an overly positive experience for me, I sometimes wonder about the choices they made in the movie. And whether they’d translate well to a general audience. There are instances in the movie where you question its own moral compass; on its ideas on themes of revenge and love. But at the very least, when a movie makes you wonder, makes you discuss these themes, I see it as an absolute win.

Definitely worth your time.

Shahbaz M
I see movies, I talk about it.

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