Directed by Manish Tiwary and produced by Shailesh R Singh and Dhaval Gada, Issaq is the cinematic adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The essence, though based in Banaras, remains the same. Two warring clans – the Kashyaps and the Mishras – are contending for dominance in the sand business. But love does find a way and happens in the case of Rahul Mishra (Prateik Babbar) and Bachchi Kashyap (Amyra Dastur).
Of course, there is also a parallel track featuring a clandestine liaison between Bachchi's stepmother (Rajeshwari Sachdev) romancing her real mother's uncle Teeta Singh (Ravi Kissen). Prashant Narayanan, whom many cine goers would best recollect as the brutal eunuch from Murder 2, plays a Malayali naxalite who is disparagingly referred to as 'Madrasi', invoking a tiresome cultural stereotype.
The backdrop prepares you for a violent clash of rivals, even as the young lovers find solace in their moments of calm together. In fact, the romantic scenes break the strain of constant conflict though some love scenes between Prateik and Amyra look like they have been directed half-heartedly.
Issaq is, no doubt, aesthetically appealing, but the pace is not. The film slackens in the second half, losing the audience's attention. Cast performances still hold their own, though. Prateik Babbar could not rise to the occasion this time around, but debutante Amyra Dastur does justice to her role. Rajeshwari Sachdev, Ravi Kissen, Sudhir Pandey and Prashant Narayanan put in good performances. Makrand Despande provides the comic relief as a mystic in the film. Neena Gupta returns to the silver screen after a considerable break. However, her role does not have the significance her stature demands.
The music is good, with Jheeni Re Jheeni and the title song haunting you as you exit the hall. Sachin Gupta, Sachin-Jigar and Krsna can take a bow. Other technical aspects are not much to write home about.
Issaq had the potential to be a wonderful film, but does not quite get there. It ends up looking like a poor country cousin of Omkara and does not do justice to the earthy Banaras locales either. The film is a good attempt and worth a watch if you are in the mood for some serious drama this weekend. Films of India gives it 2.5 stars.