Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Dev D: A different take on an age-old hero
Obviously watching him every five years or so on screen, as yet another filmmaker tries to “interpret” him, really tries my patience.
But “Dev D” is different. It was supposed to be Devdas in a modern setting, dealing with all the trappings of contemporary India, had one of our most promising actors in the lead role and was being directed by someone who dares to be different.
That’s why, when I entered the cinema hall, I wasn’t really wary.
Half-an-hour into the film, I was enjoying it. Here was our modern Devdas, now called Dev, the son of a rich industrialist, indulging in dirty phone talk with childhood sweetheart Paro (played by Mahi Gill) while he is studying in London.
And yet Dev spurns Paro’s overtures when he returns home because he suspects her of sleeping with other men.
On the other hand, Dev has no qualms romping in bed with other women. When Paro asks him about marriage, he shrugs her off, telling her she could go and “ruin someone else’s house”.
Spurned, Paro does exactly that. She marries another man, and it is at her marriage that we see the beginning of Dev’s end. Next, we are introduced to the third spoke in this wheel – Chandramukhi, or Chanda as she is called in the film.
Even Chanda has a story, the most compelling of the three in my opinion. Up until here, the film engages you, keeps you interested.
It’s in the second half that “Dev D” slides into repetitive mode, and director Anurag Kashyap deals with Dev’s destruction with much less confidence than the first half.
Instead, all you get are similar looking scenes involving drinks and drugs and sleazy hotels but they don’t take the story anywhere.
I got the feeling Kashyap became indulgent in the second half of “Dev D”. For a film that started off well, I left the hall with a feeling of relief that it was over. Somewhere along the way, Kashyap had lost the plot.
Of the cast, Abhay Deol is brilliant as Dev. Here is an actor who chooses to be unconventional when he could so easily stick to being run-of-the-mill. Kalki Koechlin as Chanda is good, bringing a vulnerability to her character that hasn’t been seen before.
But Mahi Gill as Paro is the find of the film. She is brash, yet demure, calculating and nave, all at the same time. She’s my favourite character in the film.
Ultimately, “Dev D” is not a regular film. There are parts of it I loved and others I was indifferent to. Watch it for a different take on an age-old hero but go in with an open mind.