The Next Door Devdas

A classic tragedy, a section showcasing Punjab and a snort of cocaine: the cocktail of which gives us a fresh, brave, experimental new film. Sounds paradoxical? Dev D is an answer to all ailing but valid questions at your end. Remakes are made and are brushed off either as a show of tribute or just sincere lack of originality at the end of the film maker. But Anurag Kashyap, as always, dealt with something known in an unknown, undiscovered manner. Dev D, his third film after Black Friday and No Smoking, inspired a new age Devdas to wake up in almost all of us. Kashyap brought forth a magical, real yet fictionally driven plot and enthralled the young assuredly. The old? They agreed to take a deeper second look.

Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s novel Devdas has been portrayed on the screen through the exemplary Dilip Kumar’s acting prowess and also by Shahrukh Khan’s one of a kind, distinct style. From greats like K.L. Saigal, Bimal Roy to the new age film makers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali having dealt with it, the story of Devdas has always commanded a certain curiosity, drama and enticement for every generation. Kashyap’s genius has grabbed on to this plot and made it fit into today’s yuppie jargon perfectly. Apart for just that, he has created a fabulous cinematic experience. With the experimental Abhay Deol playing the angered and drunken Dev convincingly and sympathetically to the music of this film accentuating every scene, Dev D is a winner.

The plot of the movie remains more of less similar to the novel but is still just a representation of that. The setting at the start of the movie takes us to the “khets” and “kudis” of Punjab. Dev is the poor little spoilt brat of an industrialist family just returned from completing his education in London. Paro is the manager’s daughter, who has lived next door to Dev all her life and has been his friend and foe alike. And then, there is the third protagonist Chanda. It is Chanda’s story that takes away all the attention from the carefully scripted plot. The story is well narrated, profoundly thought out and sensitively enacted by the upcoming actress Kalki Koechlin. The film explores how misunderstandings arise in the Dev and Paro’s relationship and how that extends into her moving on by marrying a rich, older widower from Delhi and Dev immersing himself in guilt, regret and subsequently, alcohol and drugs. From Chandigarh he moves to Delhi, lives in a shady hotel and whiles away his time by drinking at pubs and snorting cocaine. He then goes on to meet Chanda and finds solace in their amusing conversations, nights out dancing at clubs and eating momos at a road side stall. What happens later is the crux of Kashyap’s peculiar handling of the script. He, in his adventurous way, leaves the door of thought open for his audience through a fresh end and even fresher shots in every frame.
The movie is embellished with brilliant performances. Abhay Deol has taken through the complex main character with ease. His arrogance, his unrequited love for Paro and the following affinity towards Chanda is a highlight. Mahi Gill as Paro is assertive, strong and correctly represents today’s generation of brave and pragmatic girls. She has already made a splash in the industry and is an actor to look out for. Kalki Koechlin is bright and has given her character’s naivety complete justice. Her journey from a well off school girl Lene who gets entangled in an MMS scandal to becoming the most exclusive prostitute of a brothel is enthralling. Kashyap makes us sit up and look carefully through scenes and characters for underlying meanings.

The music of the movie, composed by Amit Trivedi, has made its mark way above the one that used to be the most conspicuous. “Emotional Attyachar” is now a song found in every youngster’s cell phone and the rock version of it is particularly popular. Kashyap has used this music powerfully through the film. May that be the Punjabi track “Ek naal” or the sensuous “Payaliya” with a semi classical base, each song croons out the depth of every scene and its emotional context. Note the song Payaliya being played with the transition of Lene into Chanda on the screen. The music is varied and journeys through genres like rock, Rajasthani and Punjabi folk.

The movie slacks in pace towards the second half. It becomes just a mingling of haphazard shots of Dev taking himself down the destructive road of addiction. There was criticism of the movie being vulgar and a little too bold for the still sensitive Indian audiences. But the movie has assumed massive popularity amongst the youngsters and this fact just stands test to the changing and reforming taste of Indian urban audiences. And plus, there is the bitter truth of it being a thorough and correct depiction of love and lust in today’s society. And the truth, as we all know, shall eventually triumph.

Sakhi Deshpande

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