Qala REVIEW: Triptii Dimri, Babil Khan, Swastika Mukerjee deliver phenomenal performances in Avintaa Dutt’s aesthetically pleasing narration
Director: Anvitaa Dutt
Star cast: Triptii Dimri, Babil Khan, Amit Sial, Varun Grover, Swastika Mukherjee
Bollywood Bubble ratings: 3.5 stars
Qala Movie Review:
Qala in one a word review is engaging. The movie starts by showing the successful singer Qala who has achieved great status in the showbiz world but has a dark past, a past that is affecting her mental state, leading to hallucinations. She wants to fight off her past but it haunts her daily due to jealousy. Since childhood, Qala’s sole motive was to always live up to her mother’s expectations and make her feel proud. On the other hand, her mother Urmila strives hard to make her a singer (Pandit) and not a courtesan. But Qala constantly fails with her antics. According to her mother, she is a zero in singing, beauty and talent. Despite her mother’s constant negligence, Qala finds ways to impress her mother with her singing skills. However, she finds herself in complete jealousy when Urmila keens on to build an orphan’s career rather than her own daughter’s.
Qala is about a woman who gained fame in someone else’s account and is now sulking in the pain. The movie can hit you differently, either it can make you feel a little heavy-hearted, or depressed or can completely bore you. I see the film for a niche audience and not something the mass would enjoy. I love watching a low-key story which is high on content. As I have learned classical music, it only added value to seeing classical and retro music which is sheer magic to my ears. Add Qala to your watchlist only if you enjoy a dark and undertone setting film with a retro touch.
Set in 1940s Kolkata, Qala chronicles the complicated relationship between a young singer and her mother Urmila. Haunted by her past, a talented singer with a rising career copes with the pressure of success, a mother’s disdain and the voices of doubt within her. Qala strives hard to get her mother’s attention and wants approval for her singing skills. However, she notices that her mother’s attention gets divided when an orphan boy Jagan comes and lives at their home. He impresses Urmila with his singing prowess and aims to bring all fame to him. But will all her sacrifices be worth the success she gets? Will her mother recognise her worth? Will Qala get over all the hallucinations?
Triptii Dimri started her filmy career with Laila Majnu and then she was seen in Bulbbul and now in Qala. Triptii only impresses me with her performances. Honestly, after her Bollywood debut film, I wasn’t sure if I would be seeing her in more films but I like how she is proving her worth as an actor and that’s what is fascinating me right now. Triptii plays the titular role in the movie and much to my delight, I’m amazed to see her calibre playing a complex character like Qala. She is innocent, she is beautiful, she is talented but for her mother, she is a woman who is weak and needs to work hard in every aspect. The emotional shift between a scared Qala and a successful singer is quite enticing.
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Babil Khan makes his Bollywood debut with Qala and must say, he does play a fair job. Even though he is seen in limited screen time, Babil shines in his parts. Babil plays the orphan guy Jagan who is a phenomenal singer; however, it is here where I think Babil didn’t convince me as a singer, saying it as an audience. His facial expressions and his body language as a singer seem quite off.
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Swastika Mukherjee is beautiful and a charmer, I must say. From her intoxicating gaze, her sensuous voice to her flirtatious behaviour, Swastika’s beauty is killer. Just in case you don’t remember, Swastika was also in the Sushant Singh Rajput starrer Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! where she played the seductress Anguri. Talking about Swastika in Qala, she demands attention and adds more gravitas to her character. The character transition in the second half is flawless when she becomes almost numb and silent.
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If you see in Bulbbul, Anvitaa Dutt has a different style of engaging her audience which is slow-paced but has many layers to it. The layers are been taken off as one progresses ahead and leaves a deep impact. Moreover, with her story, she seems to be using colours that can depict the right emotions and the setting of the film. For Bulbbul, Anvitaa chose the red colour to represent Bulbbul’s inner anger and frustration while for Qala, she chooses the undertone colours and dark colours to depict Qala’s dark yet scary past. The people who often love to see colours in movies will feel it depressing and I totally get it but that is what the story demands. I like how Dutt uses colours for narration which I think is a quite powerful medium to convey a story to the audience.
The narration constantly shifts from past to present to keep the audience engaged with the lead character. Surprisingly, the timeline transition wasn’t getting tedious for me as I was going along with the story. There was a scene in the climax where Qala is recording but she sees herself in midst of a snow field but the reality is different. I liked how Anvitaa shifts the lens from Qala’s eyes to the audience’s eyes, it is quite fascinating.
As Qala is set in the 1940s, Anvitaa ensures to keep it vintage and realistic. From the 40s camera, and costumes to that era’s recording studios, everything seems authentic and that’s what I liked about the movie. That’s not it, the way singers used to record music back then is also captured beautifully that you’ll forget that you live in 2022.
Qala’s main USP is music and it is beautiful yet artistic, all thanks to the music maverick Amit Trivedi. Since the movie is based on the 40s era, Amit composes the music which is less on techno beats and more on the musical instruments. He brings classical Hindustani music back to life and I was completely mesmerised. The sheer sounds of flutes, tabla, tanpura and other instruments are simply magical. His music adds more value as it perfectly emotes all the moods and emotions perfectly.
There are always some ingredients that seem to be missing from a film. There are rare movies that serve you a delicious platter full of the right ingredients. However, I can’t say that Qala is one of them. Triptii Dimri, Babil Khan and Swastika Mukherjee starrer is an engaging story but will a low setting and has a slow pace. Since Anvitaa likes to elaborate her characters’ emotions nicely, it can sometimes feel too much. In several scenes, I felt it was a bit of a drag. Considering that I was watching on the OTT, it was easy for me to fast-forward it but at the end of the day, it kills the enhancement of the story. The second flaw is predictability. In the second half, you understand what is going to happen next now I don’t know if Anvitaa wanted to keep that as a mystery or wanted to express it right away. Nevertheless, the shock value goes away as you figure out the climax.
Speaking about Qala in totality in this review, it is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful which is weaved with beautiful music. The vintage setting of the 60s era is visually stunning if that is your taste. I can see Qala not being everyone’s cup of tea due to its choices of colours and slow pace but that is what enhances the charm of the film. It not only focuses on the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter but also shows a young singer’s self-doubt and her insecurities despite being a successful singer. Triptii Dimri’s impactful performance and Anvitaa Dutt’s gripping storytelling are engaging but seem like a bit drag in the second half which can make you feel a little tired or maybe even disinterested towards the climax.