20 March, 2009
The Hard Edges of Modern Lives
This new film is the latest remake of Devdas, but what is equally interesting is the fact that it is in conversation with films made in the West. Unlike Bhansali’s more spectacular version of the older story, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D is a genuine rewriting of Sarat Chandra’s novel. Kashyap doesn’t flinch from depicting the individual’s downward spiral, but he also gives women their own strength. He has set out to right a wrong—or, at least, tell a more realistic, even redemptive, story. If these characters have lost some of the affective depth of the original creations, they have also gained the hard edges of modern lives.
We don’t always feel the pain of Kashyap’s characters, but we are able to more readily recognize them. Take Chandramukhi, or Chanda, who is a school-girl humiliated by the MMS sex-scandal. Her father, protective and patriarchal, says that he has seen the tape and thinks she knew what she was doing. “How could you watch it?” the girl asks angrily. And then, “Did you get off on it?” When was the last time a father was asked such a question on the Hindi screen? With its frankness toward sex and masturbation, Dev.D takes a huge step toward honesty. In fact, more than the obvious tributes to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, or the over-extended psychedelic adventure on screen, in fact, as much as the moody style of film-making, the candour of such questions make Dev.D a film that is truly a part of world cinema.