You have watched it many, many times. At one time, it was called Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. At another, Bluffmaster. Actually, take a Karan Johar college romance and replace its waxed, designer hero with rusty con man, or con woman. Scrape away its gay jokes and fat boy humour with a fistful of earthy word play. What you get is Daawat-e-Ishq and that’s probably the biggest misfortune for a film written and directed by Habib Faisal.
Despite being written and directed by Faisal, who wrote that warm cupcake of a film Do Dooni Char, Daawat-e-Ishq tries to root itself in a similar, realistic universe of realism, but with a few Bollywood accents. As a result, if you’ve managed to sit through till the interval, you know exactly what’s going to happen in the end.
However, that’s the boring part and when it begins, Daawat-e-Ishq is not a drag. Gulrez Qadir (Parineeti Chopra) is a feisty, smart college-going girl in Hyderabad. Her father, played by Anupam Kher, is a senior clerk in the high court. Gulrez topped her batch in class XII exams, does a part time job in a shoe shop and is also studying in college. Her father, however, wants her to get married as soon as possible and lines up several prospective grooms for her. Not only are these men caricaturish, silly and undeserving, they also demand steep dowry for marrying Gulrez, aka Gullu.
Fed up of these obviously evil people, Gullu hatches a plan to con a rich guy who demands a hefty dowry. She’ll have a fake nikah with him, then frame him in a dowry harassment case, wrench a lot of money out of the guy’s family in an out-of-court settlement and finally escape to New York to study fashion designing.
And then Gullu meets Tariq aka Taru (Aditya Roy Kapur). His family owns the oldest kebab place in Lucknow, which is the daawat part of the title. Gullu, then in the disguise of Sania from Dubai, chooses Tariq as the target of her con because he’s the richest of all the prospective grooms she’s encountered. Unless you have been living under a rock all these years as Bollywood laughed its way to banks, you know what happens next. Or at least how it all ends. Here’s a hint: With a song, of course!
It’s never been very difficult to sit through a film that has Parineeti Chopra in it. There is something intensely endearing about her. That’s perhaps because she makes the ordinary seem engaging, the odd seem cute and doesn’t let her audience’s attention stray from her when she is onscreen. With Anupam Kher playing her father, the duo makes the first few episodes of Daawat-e-Ishq an easy watch.
There are obvious lapses in logic. Why is a middle class, educated, financially comfortable father so desperate to marry off a smart girl like Gulrez as if that’s the only good thing she can do with her life? She hasn’t even finished her undergraduate degree. Why does Gulrez never protest her father’s preoccupation with getting her married? Her morally upright father’s quick u-turn and agreement to take part in a con is entirely unconvincing. However, despite inconsistencies, the playful banter between Gulrez and her father hold the film together through the first 45 minutes well.
And then, like all good things, that first half comes to an end. What is more unfortunate is that the end comes hand in hand with the most good-looking thing in the film – Aditya Roy Kapur.
There’s also the minor detail that the film’s message on Section 498A is deeply confusing. Is Faisal really saying that it’s okay for women to use it to victimise innocent families? Or is he suggesting that dowry cases are false?
Also, in case you had thought food is integral to the story, be warned, this is not a big-budget The Lunchbox. In fact, food in Daawat-e-Ishq is only as important as anyone else is in a Salman Khan film.
But much worse than Faisal’s take on Section 498A is Daawat-e-Ishq’s ending, which has everything from ghastly action choreography — clearly the one thing that Parineeti Chopra cannot do is do fight scenes — to corny dialogues. Friends and fans of Faisal, just pretend the last 15 minutes of Daawat-e-Ishq never happened. To give you a fair sense, it’s worse than the last 15 minutes in Ishaqzaade.