Disclaimer: This review is hugely biased, mostly because the critic (hah!) is totally, head-over-heels floored by the brilliance of the movie and has written from a slightly starry-eyed vantage, so all pointed-out flaws are purely coincidental.
“Do you touch yourself?” whispers Dev to Paro, over a long distance call between two countries, while in the back seat of a cab in London. And from the word go, Anurag Kashyap’s embodiment of Devdas makes you cringe with his absolute self-involvement, submission to desire and with his utter disregard for others’ feelings.
The story progresses largely on the lines of the classic, but with a twist, a dash of lemon in a pretty damn tame cocktail, or in the way the traditionalists, romantics and fundamentalists would have it. What our director has done, is to contemporise a story so outdated, that made Shahrukh Khan look laughable, probably even to himself, in Bhansali’s version about 5 years ago. To make a story like Devdas contemporary means a healthy dose of raw, animal passion, and admitting to the ‘sin’ of raging hormones in one’s prime, peppered with drugs and alcohol and gross self-indulgence. And so, the driving force behind Dev D becomes a physical expression of a horizontal wish (to alter the line from Shall We Dance), and not sacrificing, soppy love, which, lets face it, hardly exists anymore.
That’s your post-modern touch, the honesty of which is a refreshing bloom – where contradictions, confusions and the ensuing pain is not in the domain of sentimentality, but in-your-face self-love and craziness which is painted in shades of grey and blue on every just-human face. The message is clear: Nobody’s a saint, howsoever much they might fall in love, not Paro, not Dev, not his father. And the irony of it all – there is still some redeemable good in everybody.
And then there is Chanda. An inspiring character, consistent and solid. Subject of scandal, daughter of a civil servant who shoots himself, and a mother who abandons her for her evilness, the 16-year old girl shows inordinary spunk and becomes a (surprise, surprise) randi, who can talk dirty in any language you want her to, in any getup you desire. And, she does this to put herself through college. So there – the good in the stereotypical baaad. There’s no plain surfaces in this one.
It is not just the characters in the movie who reflect a point of departure as alter-egos of purer selves intended by the author. The movie is a product of art – and finely engineered stuff at that. Beautiful shots of Chandigarh, the rustic village and Delhi, excellent cinematography (from close ups to the attempted making out session in tall grass), poignant moments – like the one where Chanda and Dev stand in her balcony, she’s painting his face into that of a joker and unmasking herself – and very good music. The Jonas Brothers make an impression too, acting as the chorus, Dev’s three-headed conscience, and comic relief, all-in-one. or three. The point is, such perfectionism usually gets botched up, but here, you get the feeling that he’s handled it very very carefully, like holding a still beating heart – his own – in his hands. You love it as much as he does.
And the final point of departure is from postmodernity itself – the happy ending. Lightning strikes, reformation happens. Sitting in a red tub, being scrubbed by the love of his life, our anti-hero’s self-love brings him back to his senses. So then, all’s well that end’s on a slightly less morbid note. And you’re allowed to fall in love with Abhay Deol for an excellent performance.
Maybe a dose of this is what the likes of Muthalik need to shock them into their graves.