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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Movie Review: Dev D

Back when love was a compendium of silences and sighs,Devdas was an icon. These days,when it's more a matter of working off those pesky hormones as quickly as possible,the legendary lover is regarded as a champion loser.

Written by Shubhra Gupta
New Delhi | February 6, 2009 10:01:39 am

Cast: Abhay Deol,Mahi Gill,Kalki Koechlin,Dibyendu Bhattacharya

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Back when love was a compendium of silences and sighs,Devdas was an icon. These days,when it’s more a matter of working off those pesky hormones as quickly as possible,the legendary lover is regarded as a champion loser.

In ‘Dev D’,Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Deol dust him off and resurrect him,making of him just another guy who goes at romance with all the arrogance and prickliness and insecurities of a young man. Recognise yourself in him? Dev’s (Abhay) childhood sweetheart Paro (Mahi Gill) has all of these qualities,tempered by the essential female-ness of her. When,in a fit of jealous pique,he throws her off,she doesn’t beg or grovel: she turns her back on him,too. Recognise yourself in her?

The film invites you to come along on a stunning multi-layered journey—the psychedelic contours of the overloaded-on-substance,on-the-verge-of-losing-it mind,the physical degradation of the body,the slow dissolution of the spirit. With Anurag and Abhay,(whose idea it was in the first place),‘Dev D’ becomes one of those rare films which is all of a piece: every single frame is where it should be. As Dev and Paro part ways,Chanda aka Chandramukhi (Kalki) enters the equation,and the film steadies into its triangular groove,rocking to an inverted,just-right climax.

In this virtuoso re-working of the Devdas story,there’s none of the obfuscatory self-indulgence that marred Kashyap’s last outing,‘No Smoking’. The cast is perfect for their parts. Debutante Mahi Gill is no Bollywoodized phoolkari-dupatta-wearing ingénue: she dresses,moves and behaves like a feisty girl who’s been born and brought up in sugarcane country in rural Punjab. The other first-timer,Kalki,is astonishingly apt too: her journey from a traumatized schoolgirl (based on the MMS scandal emanating from one of Delhi’s top schools a few years ago) to a role-playing,phone sex-worker Chanda,is riveting. The first is raw and sensuous,the other raises the lust-meter as high as any red-blooded male can handle,but both are heart-stoppingly,blatantly alive,needy,looking-for-love-with-sex-as-a-by-product real girl-women.

But it is Abhay who makes this thing sing. His Devdas is both eerily similar to the others who’ve played the part (Kashyap cheekily references posters and scenes from SRK’s ‘Devdas’ in a couple of scenes),as well as completely his own. Spoilt rich brat,king-of-the-castle,center-of-the-universe,the kind of male who is always so sorry for himself,that he can’t see anyone else as clearly. Right from the attire—jeans,Tees,strap-across-the-chest-bag— to the attitude—love me,love me,love me– this joint-rolling,alcohol-swilling ( Coke,vodka ‘ke saath’,is his line in seedy bars) Devdas wears his victimhood with panache,blaming others for the ’emosional atyachaar’ (one of the eighteen sparkling songs Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharya have created for the film: sometimes the film seems too stuffed with the background music,but that’s a very minor quibble) being wrecked upon him,but reserving the right to a chuckle in the middle of it all.

Dissolution,despair,and redemption—the film unerringly hits all the right notes of a life sliding down the precipice,teetering on the edge,and drawing back from the brink,at the very last moment. ‘Dev D’ is a contemporary classic. Watch it,whatever else you do.

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