Cold on the heels of London Paris New York (2012) comes Preity Zinta’s long-delayed home production Ishkq in Paris. That’s not a typo in the title. It’s her name in the film - Ishkq ELISE, mind you. You see, she’s a French-Indian living *in* Paris. Her Hindi is far better than her French (‘excuse moi’ and ‘merde!’ stand out) and she’s never been to India. She hates the concept of marriage, despite taking immense pleasure in Indian culture, an act that contradicts her unwillingness to talk about her absent father.
These are not the only things wrong with the film. For a grand verbose effort that’s supposed to be the desi version of Before Sunrise or a more polished version of LPNY with a couple meeting on a train and spending a night in a European city, their characters are tremendously one dimensional and predictable. A film that solely depends on its chemistry and conversation between its lead pair often needs a skilled writer with a deep understanding of relationships and human behavior. The writers of this film are Preity Zinta herself and the director Prem Raj (known for the forgettable Salman-starrer Main uurr Mrs. Khanna). Preity’s bubbly and 'poor little party girl' Ishkq is written with Preity in mind. Newcomer Rhehan Malliek’s Akash is written with nobody in mind. He hates marriages and carries a Durex pack whenever he convinces a strange woman on a train to spend a night in a city with him.
For a film that was pushed back due to various personal and professional issues, it still looks half made. This is evident from the boy asking the girl on a train from Rome to Paris, "Where you coming from?", with her answers ranging from "I love to be served by men" and "I love Italian waiters". Every line thereafter is accompanied by a background score that you often hear when you walk into fancy restaurants or hotel lobbies. For a commitmentphobe pair, walking hand in hand through the cobbled streets of Montmarte at night (time and location displayed digitally on screen like spy-thriller) is obviously a thing that most strange couples NOT in love do a lot.
For fans of the Linklater classics, the Viennese poet that dazzles the couple with his milkshake poem is Chunky Pandey here. Chunky is a Jack-Sparrow-gone-wrong-gympsy that manages to get 10 euros for a dice game. A die that annoyingly has every option but sex turning up whenever they play it. This die forms the crux of why the pair spends a night together. Very convincing indeed. Also, a psychic at a Viennese café from Before Sunrise becomes a psychic at a French cabaret bar here. A French psychic that can speak Hindi of course. Ishkq’s first play at Akash is showing him the Eiffel tower at night, after closing his eyes for God knows how long, irrespective of the fact that you cannot miss the tower from any possible vantage point in the city at night. Somehow, even the famous French actress Isabelle Adjani (playing a French actress Marie) manages to look clueless through most parts of this, no doubt wondering how this would look on her Cannes-winning and Oscar-nominated CV. Many (4 out of the 10) in the cinema hall thought her to be Ishkq’s sister. I was convinced right till the end too. I even almost forgot that they passed off Prague as Rome to us gullible non-traveled Indian audiences.
Filmed in a bleak European winter, the city still emerges as the real star of the film - with no dialogue and slightly more elastic expressions. Ishkq in Paris’s greatest achievement is that it makes us value Linklater’s series much much much more. I can imagine the filmmakers sniggering at me and pointing out that it was in fact Before Sunset that was an inspiration for this effort, Paris being the common city.
- Rahul Desai aka Reel Reptile