Sunday, February 15, 2009
'Dev D' a pale reflection of Coen Brothers' bad film, 'Burn After Reading'
Director Anurag Kashyap has made 'Dev D' as an adaptation of Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 'Devdas', the story of a diffident and dissolute person. It is given out in the titles that the film's concept was provided by Abhay Deol, who also plays the eponymous hero. But the film which has received high praise from reviewers and so-called critics turns out to be disappointing because it pretends to be cinema. Had it been a humble remake of 'Devdas' of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and of Bimal Roy, there could not have been much quarrel. It turns out to be a trashy film because in his bid to make the new version in the mould of film noir, the director reveals that he does not know much about film as a medium as such.
The frames are all close-ups, the dialogue is loud, unsubtle, smart alecky, pseudo-feisty and the characters are imbued with an attitude which is nothing but put on. You have Parminder Kaur (played quite well by Mahie Gill), that is the classic Paro of the Devdas tradition, is shown as a hot blooded Punjabi rustic woman who cycles to a sesamum field with a mattress tied to the rack of the cycle. She spreads the mattress in the field, throws down the hero on it and does what is to be left unsaid. Modern woman of Punjab? Sexual revolution comes to Punjab? London-returned and taciturn Dev D (played by Abhijist Deol) is willing to go along with any woman who drags him but who holds himself back. Existential self-doubt? Chanda, the adopted name of the Delhi school girl whose another unsaid sexploit is broadcast through mobile video pictures. A pimp catches on to her in Paharganj in Delhi, allows her to study and become a major before she is allowed to practice the oldest profession. Dev D mows over people in Delhi in a drunken in a Merc which his dying father allows him to buy after telling him that after returning from London he has degraded himself from whisky to vodka. Kahsyap tries to exploit news items to make his film trendy.
The hero lands in a hotel in Paharganj. Paro visits his filthy den, washes his clothes and asks him to make telephone calls to her during the day and not in the night. It is this meaningless meandering of the nowhere-to-go story that reminds one of the badly-made Ethan and Joel Coen film, "Burn After Reading", which was sardonic in its tone and in its animosity towards the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) alright, but there was no narrative thread. The lack of narrativity is not being used as a cinematic device, but it is an outcome of a screenplay that is taken up by its own clever mis en scene.
Kashyap and other so-called Young Turks of 'indie' films must understand that it is not enough to flaunt cinematic viruosity if you have no credible story to tell. And instead of pretending that they love commercial Hindi cinema and filching its song-and-dance sequences to puctuate their own stuff -- the songs in 'Dev D' are just so ridiculous including that moronic number 'emosional atyachar' that one is left wondering whether Kashyap is paying tribute to the Hindi musical or just mocking it.
He has a right to do either of them, but not both at the same time. There is what is called 'contradiction' which has to be avoided. Kashyap does not have the courage to tell the sobmre tale that he wants to convey without music and song. You never get to know any of the characters because the director is so busy putting them through scene after action scene.
'Dev D' is a perfect example of how not to make a film, how not to be clever when one does not have any knowledge of film aesthetics. Only stupid media -- electronic and print -- who are as callow as Kashyap and his brand of new directors, can revel in self-congratulation at this poorly made technically flawed film.
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