It is still a Thursday but the new releases have already started to pour in! And with that I finished watching the new Hindi film Qala streaming on Netflix. Year 2022 has been a mediocre year for Bollywood. If the Boycott campaign did threaten to derail the industry, there were almost some mindless and needless remakes that did have the audiences rejecting them with disdain. This until some of the lesser expected films came to their rescue.
Films like Uunchai, Monica O My Darling, Chup and Bhediya have shown that if there is an effort made in creating original content then Bollywood will always find its audience. And so I was really looking forward to Qala considering that its trailer did look promising and that soundtrack by Amit Trivedi was simply to die for. Directed by Anvita Dutt who had previously directed Bulbull, a film that had so much of subtext that it had the potential to grow on you, I did have high hopes from Qala. So then does Qala manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Qala follows the story of a playback singer who is at the top of her game only to spiral downwards due to her internal conflict. We have previously seen in films like The Disciple where artists are often to pushed to their limits to reach some insurmountable goals that often leads to their downfall. So the story here is quite compelling with some valid social issues being addressed along the way. It is almost like poetry in motion in a drama that is visually stunning. The screenplay standing at a shade under 2 hours does ensure that the writers are not overindulgent.
The drama does open with the protagonist who has made a name for herself in the music industry where the paparazzi do want a byte from her. In a beautifully woven scene, the concept of patriarchy(and partially dismantling it) is showcased wherein a room full of ‘male’ media personnel are present for the coverage of the protagonist who does give the one female a chance to click her picture! As the conversation brews, you are transported into the past of the protagonist.
The drama often oscillates between the past and the present which are two contrasting sketches of one another. So while the protagonist is successful, you are given enough glimpses to believe that she is suffering from depression, a depression that stems from her past. Her past comprises of her perfectionist mother who would often taunt her child in exchange for perfection. The concept of toxic parenting and of parents forcing their own dreams onto their children is tapped beautifully that just doesn’t allow the young protagonist to bloom. Things take a turn with the introduction of a young singer who is favoured by the mother of the protagonist, only to lead to jealousy.
The drama is a slow burn but beautifully conveys its message with some enchanting visuals that depict the mood of every character. The fact that being a woman acts as an additional layer of challenge in an otherwise male dominated industry and wonderfully woven in the screenplay. But at no point do you feel that the writers are overindulging in highlighting an issue. The writing is organic and tactfully showcases the ways the industry works as well as the world in general. The prism of right vs wrong is blurred in the screenplay with a twist in the tale that does its bit to often haunt the protagonist.
But in all this poetic chaos, it is the mental health of the protagonist that is depicted to spiral downwards with every passing scene. Her own demons begin to haunt her coupled with the prevalent patriarchy that eventually ends up in a gut-wrenching final act. So overall, the screenplay is enchanting and beautifully subtle and nuanced.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are wonderfully insightful with some real gems to be discovered. The lines are soft, textured and poetic and penned with some real flair. The music by Amit Trivedi is the unsung hero of the film. The sountrack is soothing and enchanting and often transports you to a different zone altogether. I was surprised at how effortlessly the music changes the mood of the drama at different junctures. The BGM is equally effective and blends perfectly with the drama.
The cinematography is probably the best that I have seen all year. The frames are so aesthetic and beautiful that every frame in every scene does seem like a postcard. I really wished to witness this film on the Big Screen, considering how beautiful the film looked. Director Anvita Dutt has done an impeccable job in creating a motion poetry of sorts that beautifully yet mystically represents the mental health of the protagonist. The proceedings are enchanting with some relevant issues that are dealt with and for the sincerity in showcasing them, the director deserves distinction marks!
The performances are beautifully restrained by the talented ensemble. Varun Grover as Majrooh has some of the most beautiful lines to deliver and he does it with a pinch of softness and charm. Samir Kochhar as Sanyal has such a beautiful baritone voice that lights up a couple of scenes which features him. Amit Sial as Sumant Kumar is such a natural onscreen and an absolute delight to witness obscreen. Girija Oak as Sudha is wonderfully restrained. Swastika Mukherjee as Urmila is brilliant and this is a timely reminder on why she is a wonderful actor par excellence!
Babil Khan as Jagan is excellent in his debut outing. There is a softness to his expressions in an effortless act that did remind me of a young Irfan from Salaam Bombay. I really wish to see what more he has to offer in his future endeavors. But the soul of the film is Tripti Dimri who delivers an astonishing act as Qala. There is an inherent sadness on her face that has so many layers to it. She dabbles with many emotions in the most subtle manner and she delivers a performance to remember and cherish, haunting in many ways too!
Qala is a spellbinding and enchanting psychological drama for the ages that comes with my highest recommendation! Available on Netflix and Highly Recommended! Finally Good Times Have Arrived For Bollywood, as Varun Grover had said in the film ….Daur Badlega, Daur Ki Yehi Purani Aadat Hai….(Times Will Change).