Qala Hindi Movie

Feature Film | 2022 | Dark, Drama
Anvita Dutt's Qala is wonderfully shot and filled with terrific performers, but it stagnates after a point. To give credit where its due, however, the film addresses toxic motherhood in a way that Hindi showbiz hardly does these days.
Dec 4, 2022 By Sreejith Mullappilly

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Anvita Dutt's Qala is a story about professional jealousy and a toxic mother-daughter relationship. Tripti Dimri plays Qala, a talented singer who craves some professional appreciation from her mother, but to no avail. The film plays out in two timelines. The present-day events are set in Kolkata, where Qala is a singer with a reasonable fan base in the Hindi film industry. But she is haunted by her past. The events from the past take place at a snowy mansion somewhere in Himachal Pradesh, where Qala is looked down upon by her mother.

Swastika Mukherjee's Urmila Manjushree gives birth to twins, but the boy dies at birth. In an early scene, Urmila tells Qala that she can keep up her father's legacy, even though she is a girl. Urmila loathes a grown-up Qala. When she discusses Qala's work, she is very harsh and disingenuous. When a producer played by Amit Sial praises Qala, Urmila damns her with faint praise. Urmila dislikes Qala primarily because she is female.

It is a toxic mother-daughter relationship with Shakespearean undertones-one that the Hindi film industry seldom explores. This toxicity is wonderfully evinced in a scene where Urmila stands up to applaud the performance of Jagan (Babil Khan) soon after ignoring her own daughter's performance.

Qala raises an important question about fame. Can fame and stardom ever replace parental love? Urmila admires Jagan's work and loves him, making Qala envy him. At the same time, she makes Qala serve milk to Jagan. Soon, Qala's envy of Jagan becomes a toxic case of professional jealousy. Siddharth Diwan's wonderful camera work, with close-ups, highlights and shadows, imbues Qala with a sense of being a split personality. Diwan's camera also shows the sense of isolation that Qala feels in her sprawling mansion and her descent into madness wonderfully well.

The movie is lusciously mounted and gorgeously shot, but the story goes nowhere after a point. The mother-daughter relationship becomes a bit one-note around the climax portion. There is hardly any change in this relationship. Urmila loathes Qala, and the daughter craves her attention but is hapless. I wanted the characters to breathe a little more and the storytelling to breathe more life into the story, but the luscious canvas of the film becomes counterproductive. In other words, Qala's photography is too lucid for its own good. The climax is also a bit too predictable, although Qala is not a mystery thriller.

That being said, there is a lot to admire in this story of professional jealousy and toxic motherhood. Amit Trivedi and Sagar Desai's music is beyond enchanting as it provides weather and soul to the characters. Sireesha Bhagavatula's singing serves as an extension of Qala's inner voice. The performances are also excellent across the board.

While partly let down by inefficient writing, Tripti Dimri is wonderfully expressive as Qala. She shows her character's diffidence, sense of isolation, self-doubt, grief, and angst with relative ease. It is a challenging role, but Tripti mostly lives up to the expectations.

Swastika Mukherjee is wonderfully understated as Qala's loathsome mother. Mukherjee does not have to yell out to show us how much she hates her daughter. Her mere glances towards Qala alone tell us everything we need to know about Urmila.

Of the supporting cast, Irrfan Khan's son Babil Khan is just too good here. Babil's Jagan realizes what is going on in Qala's world, but he has greater aspirations to fulfill. Amit Sial and Varun Grover may not have the best of roles here, but they also ensure that their characters do not become as stereotypical as they may be on paper.

Sreejith Mullappilly