Thursday, March 05, 2009

Darkness....and then some light...

Tauba tera jalwa, tauba tera pyar
Tera Emotional Atyachar

-- Dev D

Darkness is found aplenty in Anurag Kashyup’s films both in terms of the lighting and the story itself. Kashyap’s initial foray into Bollywood was as a writer for Ram Gopal Varma’s gritty gangster flick, Satya, a film which ushered in a new age of dark crime films in Bollywood. When Kashyup turned to direction his films got even darker -- Black Friday started off with the horror of the 1993 Mumbai blasts and ended by showing the levels of hatred that could cause men to plot against their own city and country; No Smoking was about a character’s descent into hell caused by his addiction to smoking and ends with the character’s soul literally burning up in flames.

And now his latest film Dev D shows the weakness in a man’s personality that can cause him to plunge towards a path of self-destruction.

The film is a modern interpretation of Devdas , a story about a man ruining his life because he couldn’t get the woman he loved. Even though I have never read the original Bengali novel nor seen any of the previous cinematic adaptations, I am pretty certain that Dev D out does all of them in terms of the harsh reality and ugliness of the character portrayed. The original story and previous film versions had Devdas drinking himself crazy but Kashyup adds drugs to the mix and truly corrupts the character. The film boils down to a rich young man, Dev, having reckless sex, drinking himself silly, hating himself and wasting his life. And there is a bit thrown in about the consequences of drunk driving. Dev hates himself because he pushed his childhood sweetheart, Paro, away and caused her to marry someone else. While on a mission to destroy himself Dev meets the young prostitute (or “sex-worker”) Chanda, who has gone through her own version of hell. In the previous films, there was no hope for such a weak wretched Devdas character even though he finds another woman willing to love him. But Kashyup manages to show a tiny glimmer of light in the film and ends on a happy note.

Abhay Deol once again puts in a wicked performance and he continues his trend of picking smart roles in Indian films after Socha Na Tha, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local , Honeymoon Travels, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Manorama Six Feet Under. The film has a great look and feel to it and benefits from having two debuts -- Mahie Gill looks refreshing as Paro, while Kalki Koechlin has that innocent look that her young character requires. The music is good, even though there are a tad too many songs. However, the song Emotional Atyachar got me seriously hooked:

Rating: 8.5/10

Even though I liked the film it was not on the same level as Black Friday and No Smoking, two films that I absolutely loved. I am hoping Kashyup’s upcoming Gulaal is stellar. The trailer looks promising though.

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