Sheer Melody

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The loves of Dev

When I updated my facebook status to "watched DevD. Impressed.", Nightwatchmen felt that I probably wasn't as excited after the movie as he was when he left the theater. To put the record straight, I decided to write this, not a review - a collection of thoughts; there are too many reviews of this film on the web already - and to be perfectly honest - I don't believe I could add much to that.

The story of Devdas is one of those forlorn epics of Indian cinema, the story of the rich spoilt foreign-returned brat who doubles up as a loser and subsequently drinks himself to death for love. Anurag Kashyap takes this story and turns it on its head, relocating the spoilt brat from the zamindar family in Bengal several eons ago, to a strappy lad returning from London to the ganne-ke-kheth of Punjab. In this case the brat likes Coke (with Vodka), and also practices abuse of several soft and hard drugs. For me, the movie was defined in one of its very first epochal moments - Dev slobbering over Paro's raunchy photos, and exclaiming 'Main aa raha hoon', instead of its innuendo laden English counterpart.

There are certain movies which don't have complex plot-lines but redeem themselves through dialogue, cinematography and screenplay. DevD as a film has all of them. The camerawork is particularly arresting; the director loves his colors and uses them liberally - the usage exemplifying the claustrophobic nature of the second half. The dialogue is minimal but intelligent, not intent in hammering the point home. I believe several people have been put off by the constant forays the camera makes into Dev's mind after his decadent downward spiral commences; I thought it was done brilliantly, mirroring the stoned state of an addict with a great deal of honesty. Influences of Danny Boyle's technique are evident in each of the scenes where Dev stones like there's no tomorrow.

Any mention of this film is incomplete without the blistering soundtrack - which drives the narrative forward - instead of hindering it. Amit Trivedi's compositions brilliantly gel with the film's structure, earthy in parts - intensely psychedelic in others. There is little pretense in his compositions and his vocal rendering and that is extremely refreshing to hear. It was such a relief to hear a decent rock number come out of Bollywood in the form of Bony Chakravarty's rendition of Emotional Atyachar, considering the pussyfooted apporach which Hindi films have taken to exploring this genre in general. Amit Trivedi has played around with several genres in the film, for me the best compositions in this film would be 'Dhol Yaara Dhol', 'Nayan Tarse' and both the Dev Chanda themes which run throughout the film. Dhol Yaara Dhol is a fascinating composition, very layered, never moving out of the frame. 'Nayan Tarse' is yet another intensely melancholic composition, and became a favorite after I observed how beautifully it was woven into the narrative. The Dev Chanda themes - well - they just prove that you don't need a hundred violins screeching in the background in a diminished chord formation to really add color to a scene. A lingering bass riff and a whistle will do just fine.

I thought Anurag captured the lanes of Paharganj very nicely. The neon lights, the shady hotels, the 'eager-beaver' who has been tested for HIV and who can't wait, the underground bars with the dancers. I loved the first dance where Dev first gets stoned with Chunni to the tune of 'Pardesi'; I thought Dev's time in the underground bars and the whorehouse were the best parts of the film where his decadence (or was it the proverbial mirror to the decadence of society in general) truly came to the forefront.

There are many more vignettes which have stand out well after the end credits roll. The absolutely hilarious moment when Abhay teaches his conservative co-passenger a lesson after having been subject to a needlessly long discourse on the evil young men with depleted morals cause by riding public transport in an inebriated state, is a one-in-a-million scene. Lenny stating matter-of-factly: 'The entire country got off on it, and they call me a slut'. The 'dilli mein billi' dialogue. Dev's interaction with Paro when she comes over to clean his pigsty of a room - Dev is shamelessly apologetic - Paro coolly distant, listening to his apologies, but never responding with the kind of response Dev is looking for. Dev telling Chanda - 'But you know I love you too, Chanda'. Dev asking his cab-driver - 'Do you drink?', and he replying - 'Like a fish'. Priceless!

These are just a few of the scenes which made watching this movie so worth the wait. A word must go out to each of the performances. Each performance had its merits and although Chanda's accent did grate a few times at the outset, it gradually did endear itself to me. Abhay Deol is turning out to be quite the actor, and Mahi Gill was fabulous as Paro; when they fought - it was easy to see that it was their egos fighting a battle that both would eventually lose. Chunni's role could have been built upon and it wasn't clear what purpose he served in the film; but well, those are but minor quibbles in a pretty polished film - with carefully etched characters.

So is DevD a good film? Yes. A great film? Possibly. A definitive film? Too many questions :-)

3 Responses to “The loves of Dev”

  1. # Blogger BrownPhantom

    Shamelessly enough, I am yet to watch this one. Tere review ne aur majboor kar diya hain. Gotaa finish this thing this weekend pakka :).
    All I've seen of this movie is the emotional atyachaar video; this got to be at least half as good as you've described it to be.  

  2. # Anonymous tAM

    Detailed reviews of this movie are going to end up poking holes in it :)  

  3. # Blogger Sandipan

    @Dhanke:

    You should catch it - although not an all-time great or anything of that sort - it's worth watching

    @TAM: Precisely why I didn't go into too much detail :)  

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