Review: Ishq is the Telugu remake of the 2019 Malayalam film of the same name that saw viewers divided when it released. While it’s commendable that the SS Raju adaptation, just like the original, delves into how moral policing affects young, unmarried couples who just want to date and get to know each other, the way the filmmakers seem to believe in an ‘eye for an eye’ scenario is definitely problematic. When women have always bared the brunt of a society that attaches honour and respect to their bodies, the way the film goes about handling the subject is troublesome.
Siddhu (Teja Sajja) is your average IT guy who loves spending time with his girlfriend Anu (Priya Prakash Varrier) and wants to settle down with her. He’s extremely possessive and wants to ensure her birthday remains a memorable one. Two duets, one long drive down Beach Road after they search for a private corner to have a moment alone and find a parking spot. Trouble comes knocking, literally, in the form of Madhav (Ravindra Vijay) who claims he’s a police officer. He threatens them for private details, is soon joined by another man and things just spiral down from there. What starts out as a romantic liaison soon turns into every couple’s worst nightmare.
The way Siddhu’s character is written, you expect by the end of the whole ordeal he’d at least want to know if his girlfriend is mentally okay, seeing as how he’s so ‘possessive’ of her. That doesn’t happen. Toxic masculinity is nothing new to Indian cinema and the filmmakers find a way to insert it into a story that was initially doing a great job of exploring something a lot of couples in this country face. Ishq truly does delve well into not just how uncomfortable, how scary it can be when every random uncle believes it’s his business to know everything about you and feels free to talk in double entendres. What’s scarier is how a supposedly good man feels comfortable using the same double entendres on a young child who will probably end up needing years of therapy.
Ishq is an odd mix of feminism and misogyny that don’t really gel well together. On one hand you have Anu, who’d rather stay in a clearly dangerous situation than seek help because she doesn’t want to shame her family. Yet she also knows what she wants out of a partner and is happy to give him the finger, literally, when he doesn’t align with her thought process. Siddhu is supposed to be the ‘hero’ of the tale the way the music plays in the background when he’s on-screen. He will pick a fight with a random man for looking at his girlfriend and yet his idea of revenge is so twisted, no sane man could come up with it.
Teja Sajja and Priya Prakash give their roles their all but it’s Ravindra Vijay who stays with you long after the film is done. His character is so twisted; he plays it with evil, gleeful abandon. By the end of it all, the songs by Mahati Swara Sagar add nothing to the film and the chemistry between the lead pair is so lacking, it bores you till the film gets into the thick of things. Ishq had the potential to be something more, if only the subject at hand was handled better instead of ending up being nothing but than a case-study on the big, fat, male ego. .