As an artist, everyone has insecurities and fear. Even if they cope, some people pull them down with either criticism or comparison. But what keeps an artist motivated is their will and passion for practising their art for the rest of their life.
Qala is that art, and Qala Manushree(played by Tripti Dimri) is that artist. Set in the 1930s and 40s, Qala tells a sore story of a singer from Himanchal who is haunted by her past and lives a traumatic life as a successful singer.
Being from an eminent family of classical singers, Qala aspires to become a singer just like her mother, who was a thumri singer. Her voice is like a cuckoo, but she is also a parasite. When she was born, the doctor said she sucked her twin brother’s nutrition into her mother’s womb. So, when she can’t fulfil her mother’s expectations in singing, she culls down the competition by making sacrifices which later bring havoc in her future life.
Her overbearing mother, Urmila Manushree(played by terrific Swastika Mukherjee), trains Qala in singing but isn’t satisfied until a day when Jagan Bantwal (played by Babil Khan) enters their life with his mellifluous voice.
Writer-director Anvita Dutt creates a world of aesthetic visuals with a melodic soundtrack. The film’s narrative opens up as a pandora’s box, which goes back and forth from present to past and vice-versa, making it difficult to concentrate and keep track of the flow of the story. This trick tries to make the narrative attractive, but that’s not the case, especially where the writing is boring, which does not keep you hooked up.
The plot tells us the story of three people through the protagonist’s journey (Qala, Jagan and Urmila). Each of them has a transformation they go through and unravels their past and present situations. The theme revolves around love, jealousy, sexism and ambition through music.
Other than the personal life of the characters, how they are treated in the outside world is also revealed very well. In one scene, when Qala performs in an auditorium, there are countable people present to listen to her. At every other moment at Jagan’s performance, the whole hall is crowded for him.
The songs in the movie play as melodious dialogues telling the inner story of the singer. Amit Trivedi’s music, elegant visuals and Swastika Mukherjee’s acting are the only things which keep you entertained.
The colours and the locations remind me of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ starring Alia Bhatt, which had a similar colour theme. The greens used in the film made the shots look like photocopies of Gangubai Kathiawadi. The phone call scene where Qala tries to call her mother is the same as when Gangu (the protagonist in Gangubai Kathiawadi) talks to her mother on call.
Due to its monotonous writing and brilliant performances, Qala is a one-time bearable watch.
You can watch Qala on Netflix.