Review - Dev D: Arousal without climax, yet not frustrating

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
quick review:

Three characters tell you they are only human. They are all insecure. They are self-destructive when in love. They are directionless. And unfortunately, this last sentence can be said about the film too. While the characters are superbly set-up individually, when woven together they just don't gel. And the standards set by the start leave you feeling high and dry by the time it reaches the finish line.

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As the first few scenes unfold I try to imagine the understandable reaction of an audience that is fed on mainstream Hindi cinema. "Titillating!", "Voyeuristic!!", "Despicable!!!" Maybe audiences that are exposed to cinema from the world will have a similar reaction too. This is not what we do in 'our' movies. So what if almost every movie boasts a pole-dance in the name of 'item number' with the most suggestive lyrics?! Even so, I'd have agreed with them if the characters in Dev D didn't move beyond their basic needs, if they didn't try to understand each other. Or if they didn't have reasonable motivation. Or if they, like normal human beings, didn't move on from one pain to another. It's all there. Not completely satisfying, but it's there.

Not entirely smoothly but you are introduced to the characters. Even though most of us might not identify with them, we begin to enjoy them. The offense to the Indian psyche starts its onslaught with the guy who is adamant and outright disrespectful towards his elders. A girl in love can go to any extent to please her man. Another frustrated, violated, unloved teenager rebels when friends and family desert her. Each one a very strong character. And all three condemn themselves to self-destruction - even if one of them takes a socially acceptable path.

But, then something goes wrong. The writing in terms of the story just loses its charm mid-way. The strong characters turn limp as if the writers lost interest. Fortunately the dialogue stays crisp and smart. But, all the foreplay doesn't lead to anything exciting. No home-run after third base?

Tut-tut....It's not our culture to express our sexuality. We have the urge. 1,00,00,00,000 don't happen just like that! But, Shushhh! We purge the need to talk about it. And here you have the three main characters lusting like there's no tomorrow - on the big screen at that! Scandalous!! But, HOLD ON...It's explicit by implication not by expression. Not so much as a kiss in it for us to make a fuss about. And yet it comes across as imprudent. Sure the language is refreshingly candid. It's not exactly everyday language only because not all people can think on their feet like that.

And this is what sets Dev D apart. It's almost as if the camera is just waiting for a nudge, to be pushed to capture what might be happening under that bush. But the makers enjoy teasing the audience better. Of course, this also helps in escaping the censor scissor.

It's an Anurag Kashyap movie. By definition it has to try and show the society a mirror. He comments on the double standards of men and spells it out through dialogue, just in case you were trying to overlook it. The film talks about sex not only as an obsession, but also as a form of possession - this person is mine because he/she makes love with me. It drills the angst down in the songs. Almost constantly, there are words in the background song telling you something insightful if you care to pay attention. Incidentally, it was the first time I saw audience singing a song out loud in a theater.

How can I leave Abhay Deol's charm or dialogue delivery skills out? O-kay, his smile and dimples too! Yet his character, Dev's attitude made me want to slap him. Maybe because he portrays Dev's audacity that well, or maybe because Mahie Gill played Paro as if there wasn't any effort involved. I didn't need to understand much of Punjabi to know what was on this girl's mind! Am I the only one who felt like I was watching Tabu? However, the chemistry between Abhay and Mahie is completely missing when Kalki Koechlin and Abhay get together. Kalki didn't seem 100% comfortable and thus looked a little pretentious.

Dev D represents what some of the urban youth go through today. Their candor, their confidence, their conceit, their sexual desires, their redefinition of true love. It’s a story told and retold over decades, in literature and on screen. But it's more open, more bold. Unfortunately, it also feels like it's half-told.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

Well, it's rated 'Adult' by the Censor Board. Anyway...

  • Violence: A slap or two
  • Language: Loads of adult-speak. Abuses and general sex-talk
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A couple of attempts at love-making.
  • Concept: One of the main characters is a clueless, adamant, 'disrespectful'. Not exactly your child's role model. But then again, maybe you were partially like that in your youth too. Another character is a call-girl. And almost, of her own will.

Dev D - Movie Details

Dev D - Trailer

Comments (3)

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Suman:

Direction: 4
Story: 3
Lead Actors: 4
Character Artists: 3

Dialogues: 4
Screenplay: 4
Music Director: 4
Lyrics: 4.5

Intelshwets:

Wait, this is a re-post, right?

The first time I had watched it, I was blown away. Not because it is a mind blowing story, but because it is shown in such rawness of today's age. Especially when compared to all the other Devdas stories I've heard, which only talk about how grand their houses were and how sad their lead character was. And Abhay Deol's alcoholism seemed so real too, and that was suprisingly very different form Bollywood's typical (cough-SRK-cough.) For that matter his dialogues and acting too, but that's for another discussion.
Oh and the music, I have no doubt that half my love for the film came because of Amit Trivedi. It fit so well with all the moods that it sometimes defined the mood.

I love this film, even today after watching it many times. New talent always seem like a breath of fresh air, even through a dark film.

meetu:

What do you mean re-post, @intelshwets? The rest of what you said, completely agree!

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