Daipayan Halder

DevD: Horny okay please

Posted in Uncategorized by daipayanhalder on February 28, 2009

First published on blogs.widescreenjournal.org

“Love is not the greatest glue between two people in love. Sex is.” Tarun Tejpal says in his debut novel The Alchemy of Desire. Anurag Kashyap seems to agree. Kashyap’s DevD, a modern-day avatar of Saratchandra’s flawed but enduring Devdas, says at the end of the movie he never loved Paro. He hadn’t even seen her properly. It’s Dev’s moment of truth. Dev and Paro had never slept together, they made out yes, but never fucked. Was it then unfulfilled desire cut short by a conflict of egos masquerading as true love? Maybe. And therein lies the rub. DevD is not a film on love.

Abhay Deol’s Dev, as Chanda points out several times in the movie, is a slut. Not a lover. He’s a rich spoilt brat used to having things his way. Whether it is ordering Paro to fetch him food as a kid or pleading her to mail him a boob shot so that he can relieve himself in London. It’s that shot of Paro in the nude that compels Dev to return to Chandigarh. Make no mistake, as Dev did, it’s pure lust he feels for Paro, some fondness maybe along the way, but none of your happily ever-after bullshitting.

Dev is a feudal lord: the retrosexual makeover and the London stint notwithstanding. His ego takes a beating when he gets to know Paro may have rolled in the hay with the village lads. He refuses the poor girl in heat some much-needed relief and tells her she’s beneath him in social status and hence shouldn’t aspire for him.

Two things come to the fore early on in the film. What Kashyap has done here is taken the basic text from Saratchandra and turned it on its head. So instead of parents playing spoilsport it’s Devdas himself whose male ego makes him reject Paro. Instead of his dad telling him to keep away from her as she is beneath them in the social order, it is he who tells her that while rejecting her. Hanif Kureishi’s My son the fanatic comes to mind.

The parents in fact, both Dev’s and Paro’s, display more modern values then Devdas. Dev’s father says he would have liked Dev to marry Paro. And Paro’s father, a manager in Dev’s family business, catches the two making out several times, but doesn’t really object. His daughter is a grown-up and has the right to make her own decisions, when Paro says it will be no one but Dev for her, he points out, feebly, the obvious difference in social status, but doesn’t try to impose.

The other point being: DevD’s heroines or female leads if you please are strong ones. None of your bra-burning feminism, though they take it off several times in the film for an entirely different purpose. Paro, the village girl, asks Dev how it is okay for him to relieve his sexual urges with whoever he can manage, but not for her. She marries an older suitor to teach Dev a lesson. She feels for Dev still, she has known him all her life after all, but when she comes to visit him after marriage, remains cold to his sexual demands. Chanda, the daughter of a diplomat, asks her father why it is such a big sin to give a blowjob to a boyfriend (who shoots it with a camera phone and turns it into the infamous MMS scandal), that she was still a virgin and won’t go around sucking every dick that comes her way. When the diplomat father kills himself, the mother shuts herself out from the world and the father’s relatives behave like cads, she becomes a hooker to live life on her own terms. She also calls Dev several times in the film a slut. A slut calling a potential suitor a slut. Classic Kashyap for you.

The third point in the film, though understated, that caught my attention is how the urbane, upper crust families display outdated societal bias, but a family much lower in the social pecking order behave like mature adults. Paro’s father cathes Dev and Paro making out several times, he might have even heard rumours about his daughter and other village lads, but doesn’t throw out his daughter. On the contrary, he lets her be. Chanda’s father, a diplomat, shuns his daughter when her MMS scandal surfaces. She apologises, tries to reason with him and finally in frustration asks him whether he too got off on her MMS clip. And all the bugger does is shoot himself in the mouth, literally.

Kashyap’s DevD impresses. An outdated classic resurrected with modern-day pining. So what emotional atyaachar has replaced true love? Didn’t it always?

Why I loved Slumdog

Posted in Uncategorized by daipayanhalder on February 20, 2009

I borrowed the DVD of Slumdog Millionaire from a friend for a late Friday night watch, not knowing what to expect. My friends had seen it, my colleagues had seen it and even my parents had caught a matinee show in a Kolkata theatre. Some liked it, some trashed it, but then that’s with most movies.

Slumdog though had generated a national debate by the time I pushed the play button on my DVD player. The venerable Mr Bachchan had panned it, NGOs had taken serious offence and half the country seemed offended by a foreigner calling a slum dweller a slumdog. I just had to see the film.

Three hours later, I was a happy man. Slumdog is not just entertainment, it’s an experience. On the film’s cinematic merits this is what I have to say without sounding academic: If movies are supposed to be paisa wasool, this film is. If movies are supoosed to appeal to the finer senses, this film did. Slumdog is a marriage of a Mira Nair with an Anaeez Bazmi. My apologies to both. But I think that best decribes the essence of the film. It’s Deewar meeting Salaam Bombay. It’s pure masala with an arthouse touch.

All that gobbledygook about Slumdog being poverty porn was, well, gobbledygook. Selling Indian poverty to the West is an old grouse. But it never made any sense to me. If you have shit in your backyard, how can you stop your neighbours from complaining. I have a serious problem with a film like Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom that showed India as a land of snake-charmers and senile sadhus. India had ceased to be that long back.

But Slumdog shows what Bombay is.

I remember when I shifted from Delhi to Bombay, looking down from the plane I saw a sea of shanties. The Arabian sea came to view later. Why deny it then. It is as much Bombay as the Queen’s necklace.

But there was so much more to Slumdog than showcasing shanties. Slumdog celebrates life. It doesn’t glorify poverty like a Dickens. Though sriptwriter Simon Beaufoy apparently told the director he felt the “shadow of Dickens” as he worked.

It doesn’t try to find the meaning of life in a Bombay slum like a Shantaram. It looks at the life of a slumdweller, three actually, and shows it like it is, warts and all.

Yes, there’s the beggar mafia dropping hot oil on the eyes to make you go blind so that you can beg better, yes a girl in a shanti may end up being raped and sold several times over, yes there’s murder and mayhem in Mumbai’s mean streets. But there’s no looking down upon, there’s no white man’s burden and there’s no sermonising. And there’s hope. Dollops of it.

A little filmy yes, but isn’t that needed? Both in films and in life? There’s hope for the slumdog that he will get an Amitabh Bachchan autograph even if he is covered in filth. And there’s hope for Jamal in the game of luck and life. Jai Ho!