Starring Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill, Kalki Koechlin
Directed by Anurag Kashyap
Rating: *** ½
Fiery unforgettably unstoppable in her self-worth...Paro, now transposed to Punjab (gawd, yeh ladki kahan-kahan jayegi?!) knows her Devdas just back from England wants some quality sex.
As determined as ever, she cycles to the nearest surgarcane fields with a bulky bedroll tied to the carrier, spreads it,and herself, out for her foreign-returned lover-boy...
That image of the super-determined Paro cycling to sex in the fields, compounded with that brilliantly shot sequence where she explodes her bitterness frustration and anger by pressing down on a handpump as thought it were a....never mind!...qualify as two of the most astutely achieved images of literature- on- cinema in recent Bollywood memory.
Anurag Kashyap at last sheds his obstinate inaccessibility as a filmmaker. More a homage to Sanjay Leela Bhansali than litterateur Saratchandra Chatterjee's Devdas, Kashyap's Dev D is that deep liberating lascivious luscious provocative tantalizing and tragic view of tragic hedonism, ruinous selfindulgence and vain miscommunication that Saratchandra barely thought about but couldn't articulate.
Kashyap's Devdas is a raunchy renegade, a bastard of the first order who thinks of only selfgratification.
And his task is made easier by the two women who come into his life in this splendidly tragi-comic subversion of a timeless novel that said, defeatism is heroic. But only when compounded by the ability to confront your weaknesses headlong.
As Dev D, Abhay Patel, that big-little hero of the outré cinema, is crass and wounded, vain and vicious, stupid and sensitive.
The contradictions pulsate and nourish the narrative making it a ripe and riveting drama of disorientation and dissociation where the protagonist's failings are defined more by physical appetites (sexual and otherwise) than metaphysical longings.
In telling a timeless story of selfseeking arrogance Anurag Kashyap manages to build a spiral of contemporary themes.
The Chandramukhi sections where the innocent school girl gets trapped into a quagmire of campus sleaze and finally ends up as a sex worker is hertwrenching in its portrait of the contemporary moral crisis that threatens to tear our civilized society limb by limb.
Kashyap pays some delectable tributes to Sanjay Bhansali's Devdas, not only in the outstanding sets and art decoration (Sukanta Panigrahi) and the super-smouldering-and-evocative cinematography (Rajeev Ravi) but also in the way kitsch is converted into a cool neo-classic currency.
The dialogues (Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane) have a constantly quirky and cutting edge. Check out the long boudoir piece where Chanda wonders aloud to Dev why people are so coy about calling a a sex worker a randi.
The words and visuals are not for the squeamish. Indeed the film's most glorious accomplishment is that it succeeds in simultaneously being sluttish and sublime.
The principal characters seem to be scoffing and saluting Saratchandra's novel while forging a totally unexplored territory for the three tormented misfits whose malfunctional destiny makes them bitter and angry but never repulsive to the spectator.
Anurag Kashyap shoots the drama of the damned on locations that echo the protagonist's inner state.
The open-aired Punjabi prelude progresses painlessly into a pained and claustrophobic psychedelic stroble-lit nightmare that includes three male pub performers who pop up willy-nilly to sing on Dev's plunge into a hellish self-pity.
Kafka would recognize and Saratchandra would probably reject the world that Kashyap's Devdas enters.
Would Saratchandra Chatterjee, Bimal Roy or Sanjay Leela Bhansali smile at Anurag Kashyap's backhanded warm and revisionist look at the life love and heartbreaks of Hindi literature's ultimate loser?
Abhay Deol plays Devdas with a wry cynicism suggesting both disgust and longing for a social system that rejects him as much he rejects it.
Kashyap's two prized finds are his 'Paro' Mahie Gill and 'Chanda' Kalki Koechlin. Mahie plays Paro with a blend of pride and resignation, fire and pathos, bringing to the part a rare and undefinable solidity. How does she compare with Suchitra Sen or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's Paro? Who's comparing?!!
Kalki as the schoolgirl-turned-whore plays her character stripped of all selfpity. Not that she enjoys being what she is. But this Chandramukhi isn't apologetic about the place that life has put her in.
Anurag Kashyap's Dev D is a harsh but sensitive take on an age-old material, done with a sense of spiraling pit-in-the-stomach vertiginous momentum that's not quite lost even as the protagonist loses his way in a maze of selfindulgence.
Watch the film to see with what tongue-in-cheek temerity form is wedded to content without the director wavering in his determination to take cinema into regions that have nothing to do with convention.
And everything to do with invention.