Friday, February 27, 2009

Dev D and much more

About a year and a half back I was introduced to the magical world of Wong Kar Wai. The Juhu chowpatty-like luminance, the pineapple tins just past their expiry date, the markets of Hong kong and the tune of California Dreaming are pretty much in my active memory as if it was only yesterday.  The plot of Chungking Express is by no means extraordinary-two cops dealing with heartbreak in their very own way. But what is extraordinary is the way the colors, the music and the unapologetic naïveté of Wai and his characters combine to transform, what is otherwise a geometry shape, into a Warholesque creation.

In some ways, Dev D is similar to Chungking Express, only multiplied. It is about three suffering characters, but the betrayal is not just limited to love. Dev D has more color and more music. Here the main protagonist does not pine for pineapple tins or talk to bath soaps. He instead indulges in booze, sex and drugs. However, where the similarity totally ends is in the intentions of the director. Having repositioned, reinterpreted and remixed the Devdas aspect, Kashyap expands the scope of the Chungking aspect even further. It is no longer a sleek love story. It also attempts to be a mirror to the society showcasing its hypocrisy.

But Dev is not a forthright Mohan Bhargava (Swades) who observes the problems with the society around him and attempts to mend them. Instead he, as a nihilist and chauvinist hypocrite, is one of the problems. And for the most part he wallows in self pity. However, there is Lenny a victim of this hypocrisy herself, who smashes the mirror right in your face. (In case you’ve just watched Delhi 6, let me clarify that all the references to any mirror or reflecting entity are strictly metaphorical. They bear no resemblance to any mirror intact or broken.)

There is so much happening and so many details are thrown at you (Ex: the Kali painting on Dev’s Wall and the three dancers) that you feel everything is going to be a big mess. However, the knowledge of those details or the absence of them does not affect the narrative.

So does Anurag Kashyap pull it off? No but he falls just short. What could have been legendary ends up just short of being great. Is it better than Chungking Express? Well, let me put it this way even if it was better than Chungking that would still be 15 years behind Wai who made it in 1994. DevD clearly packs more than Chungking but it is more like Kashyap’s resume. Chungking was Wai’s art.

That was my first effort as a pseudo-intellectual film critic. It feels powerful to judge something that you don’t have the talent to make yourself. Screw it! I liked the movie.

Does this mean there will be more reviews on this blog? Not necessarily. But this one fits the theme of the blog and so do August Rush and Bee season.