Review By : Movie Run Time : 2 hours 14 minutes Censor Rating : U/A

Production: AVA Productions, E4 Entertainment Cast: Shane Nigam, Shine Tom Chacko Direction: Anuraj Manohar Screenplay: Ratheesh Ravi Story: Anuraj Manohar Music: Jakes Bejoy Background score: Jakes Bejoy Editing: Kiran Das

Anuraj Manohar's Ishq opens with a harmless phone conversation between Sachi (played by Shane Nigam) and Vasudha (Ann Sheetal), as they conjure up a plan for 'a romantic outing on Vasudha's birthday, amidst some light banter. The film opens like any other romance, but it turns into something that is a stark contrast to the usual romantic entertainers in the past.

Ishq revolves around the passive-aggressive Sachi and Vasudha, whose lives change as they experience a strange encounter in the midst of a car trip. The initial portions of Ishq have a lighter tone to it, as they beautifully set up the relationship between Sachi and Vasudha. The familial bond displayed in Sachi's household reeks of the warmth that we usually associate to a friendly love story. But these events are just used to butter up for an unexpected aftermath.

The film's pace accelerates as their intimate moment gets disrupted by a lecherous voyeur and his companion. The unpredictable nature of the film heightens when the couple tries their way to escape from the clutches of the two men.  The plot has some elements of revenge that usually scapegoats the female characters, but Ishq turns the cliche over its head with ways you won't expect.

The characterization is written is such an intricate manner that the film taps into the aggression of masculinity and the frailty associated with it. One of the major instances is the interval block, where Vasudha retorts by questioning Sachi's manhood when he doubts her chastity. These little touches make Ishq a notch above your usual potboilers. The second half is the moment where the tables turn and the hunter becomes the hunted.

The tension is not only sustained, but it's taken to unprecedented levels through the sheer unpredictability of Sachi, who comes across as relatively unassuming and soft natured. One might fear that Ishq might become another Arjun Reddy and RX-100, where the protagonists ascend to self-destruction via substance addiction. But in Ishq, the substance is replaced by Sachi's thirst for revenge and the quest to satisfy his weak male ego.

Ishq gives a cathartic and unexpected closure. The film excels at mood creation, especially during the pivotal car scene, where you may have predicted what happens in the next frame, but the staging and the editing compensate for it whilst increasing your anticipation. The wafer-thin plot is very well thickened by Ratheesh Ravi's fast-paced screenplay and the visceral performances.

Shane Nigam knocks the ball out of the park with his performance that makes every emotion of Sachi palpable without an ounce of theatricality. Shine Tom Chacko gives a thrilling performance as the man who holds the couple hostage. The background score doesn't attempt to oversell the moments or emotions, but it aids to the haunting mood of the film. As the film's caption suggests, Ishq is a brilliant anti-romance that is engrossing till the end


Verdict: Ishq is an unpredictable, engrossing romantic-thriller that raises relevant questions.


3.25 5 ( 3.25 / 5.0 )