Do you like stories set in previous centuries? For me, they are good if they can hook me for a significant portion of their runtime.
A new Indian Hindi film, set in twentieth-century India, has been released on Netflix. Qala is a dark, psychological drama that has music at its core.
The movie has a two-hour runtime and marks the debut of Babil Khan, the son of the legendary actor Irrfan Khan.
My non-Hindi audience should know that Qala means Art in English.
Before I take you to the critical evaluation of Qala, here’s the film’s synopsis.
At the peak of her singing career, Qala must deal with her haunting past to survive the onslaught of self-doubt. The story revolves around her shaky life to the zenith and then back to her nadir. Furthermore, Qala is a psychological and dark tale.
It is directed by Anvitaa Dutt and stars Triptii Dimri (Qala), Swastika Mukherjee (Urmila), Babil Khan (Jagan), Amit Sial (Sumant), Sameer Kochhar (Chandan Lal), Girija Oak (Sudha), Swanand Kirkire (Mansoor Khan), and Varun Grover (Majrooh), among others.
What are the things that work in favor of Qala?
After a long time, I have watched a winning psychological Hindi movie. Qala’s concept is unique in that it doesn’t cry for attention.
The idea is simple, but it has been compellingly executed and adapted to the screen. Like most movies dealing with mental issues, Qala also goes into the past for answers.
However, the film manages to instill a great deal of intrigue while doing so. The story is sprinkled with hideous yet non-pretentious twists, gripping circumstantial events, and, of course, alluring music.
All the songs hit your heart, thanks to the melodious voices behind them and also the intensity with which they have been enacted on the screen.
My personal favorites were Ghodey Pe Sawaar and Shauq. The classical tunes in some of the songs were superb. Rightly so, music lifts the prospects of Qala.
Furthermore, the writing always extends itself beyond the storyline. You can experience its depth in dialogues, quietness, and the screenplay.
All the small happenings on the screen are connected to the domino set into motion by effective writing.
Also, the psychological presentation is never overdone or exaggerated by loud background music or unnecessary clatter in Qala.
The flashbacks are well-plotted and masterly executed. Additionally, the presentation of mental hitches and psychological stumbles is ideal.
Another notable aspect of the film is its cinematography, which is subtle and calm. Qala has been shot beautifully, and you are bound to love the camera work.
Coming to the actors, Triptii Dimri plays the titular character of Qala, and she fulfills all the requirements such a role would demand. Her expressions are vocal, emotional mien is spellbinding, and how she presents psychic variations is highly commendable.
Babil Khan, on his debut, creates a tempting aura for Jagan. The inflections in his dialogues make him appear more intense and unique.
There’s a touch of Irrfan Khan in Babil when he only slightly uses his dialogues and does most of the work with watchful eyes. There couldn’t have been a better film than Qala for Babil Khan’s debut.
Swastika Mukherjee plays Urmila in the Netflix film. Her usual demeanor is on the sunny side, but in Qala, she aces the subtle shades of gray.
Whether the gentle audacity in her voice or the dominating claws of a twentieth-century mother, Swastika shines all the way through.
Amit Sial brings his unique style to Sumant. He has always honed less pretentious characters, and the one in Qala is no less. The actor makes a late entry into the film but thrives thereafter.
Girija Oak, in a supporting role, dazzles in her entirety while Sameer Kochhar surprises with an intricate cameo.
Swanand Kirkire plays a cameo in the film and, in the five odd minutes he spends, the actor ensures you are treated well.
One thing I hold against Qala is the casting of Varun Grover as Majrooh. He is a brilliant writer but looked odd as an actor. It felt as if Grover was trying too much to be natural, which was bound to end in a disaster.
What doesn’t work for Qala?
I quite liked everything in the film. A few things can be dicey, but there’s nothing I want to write just for the sake of criticizing.
Should Qala on Netflix be watched?
It should be watched for the reasons I have already mentioned. To remind you, the best part of Qala is its execution.
Is Qala a true story?
No, Qala is not a true story. It is a fictional tale of a singer.