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Sunday, 15 February 2009

DEV D, chapterwise critical comments & story.

By ABHISHEK Fri, 06 Feb 2009 First things first. I hate 'rating' films. And though I don't know if this really matters, but I do feel terribly obliged to explain exactly how I have arrived at my rating for this film- for it was certainly something that posed a great dilemma to me. It feels cruel to reduce this bravura attempt by Anurag Kashyap to calculating a silly score, but ultimately, I decided I had to go with simple good ol' arithmetic- simply put, four stars for the first chapter of the film and minus one for the rest.

Needless to say, Dev D-rails terribly in the second half, and excuse me for wanting to get it out of my system before I talk about what I loved. So here goes:

CHAPTER 1: Why, Anurag, Why

Emotional Atyachaar. Nothing but the cracker of a song (composed by the awesome Amit Trivedi who creates an exceptional soundscape for the film) can describe the pain you feel as you see a potential cult film wreck itself right before your eyes. In a surreal turn of events, you see film become the man, as Dev D turns self-destructive, directionless and seemingly senseless. You look for a spark somewhere, a small shard that you can hold close and perhaps connect to, but it all gets lost in a purple-blue haze of smoke.

Speaking of which, even No Smoking, for all its indulgence and magnificently bizarre twists and turns, never completely lost the plot this way. It held together, because there was some innate method to the madness, which is hard to find here. What could have been a poetically tragic, bittersweet tale of two wounded, lost souls finding momentary happiness together becomes an exercise in futility and for the viewer, often sheer frustration. Kalki Koechlin, who plays Chanda, has an endearing fragility and waif-like presence, but she falls woefully short, and her labored accent and patchy characterization (even after Kashyap painstakingly sets up a sad and unnecessarily long back-story for her) makes it impossible to relate to her.

There's some of Kashyap's trademark witty dialogue here too, and a few scenes that sparkle in between- my personal favorite (and especially topical in a way, with the recent incidents of moral policing) is one where an old lady launches into a lecture for the protagonist whose side-splitting reaction nearly made me fall off my chair. But with the absence of any propulsive narrative force, Dev D almost begins to torture, and the repetitive onslaught of montages (all of which are brilliantly shot by Rajeev Ravi) takes this part beyond redemption. In the end, it's another of Trivedi's mind-blowing tracks that perhaps echoed my sentiments:

Nayan Tarse,
Nayan Tarse,
Daras Na Mile,
Nayan Tarse...

CHAPTER 2: Wow, Anurag Wow!

The sarson ke khet are in place, and her dupatta does flutter, but trust me, this Paro is hardly one to melt like ghee and butter. The sacred Yash Raj idiom is turned on its head, with Kashyap's heady and cleverly concocted cocktail. The esoteric filmmaker springs a surprise and even a few pleasant shocks onto us, and discovering each moment of this wonderfully quirky take on the classic novel is a delight.

Frankness and candor like this has perhaps never been seen in mainstream Hindi cinema. Even as the director cheekily and sincerely references the novel and its adaptation by Sanjay Bhansali, he contemporarises it like perhaps only he could have- and turns romantic icons into flesh and blood people. Set against an impeccably detailed and colorful Punjab, Dev and Paro's love story comes alive like never before, because Kashyap has the balls to acknowledge them as sexual creatures without making a fuss over it.

A landmark film in the way it portrays youth and young love, and superbly etched with irony and humor, Dev D marries Kashyap's typical stylistic flourish with multi-layered substance, and this is truly a match made in heaven.

Deol is perfectly cast here, and the actor (who conceptualized the film) drips coolth and 'typical Indian' male chauvinism in equal measure. The attitude and arrogance of the spoilt Punjabi lad is brought out with astounding realism, and once again the courageous young actor packs a solid punch.

But the real knockout here, without doubt- is Mahi Gill, whose fiery, spunky presence commands your attention in each frame she is in; her raw earthy charm wins you over and the sheer poignancy that she brings to Parminder is truly heartbreaking. Gill, who has earlier acted in Punjabi films, is a far cry from our delicate, virginal heroines, and I am compelled to say that I haven't fallen in love with an actress this way since Vidya Balan made her debut. Whatever she stars in next, my tickets are already booked. Needless to say, Mainu Mahi Naal Ho Gaya Pyaar.

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