Dev.D -- Film Review

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Venice Film Festival, Out of competition

VENICE -- It must have taken a lot of guts for Anurag Kashyap to have helmed "Dev.D." Based on the early 20th-century classic Bengali novel "Devdas," by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Kashyap's work follows several films on the same subject, many directed by masters. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's version with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit screened at Cannes a few years ago.

However, Kashyap steers clear of star appeal, and instead reworks the story, setting it in today's India. A new twist in the end lifts the age-old tale of tragic defeatism to a refreshing new high. The screenwriters have, keeping in mind the changing Indian scenario, added considerable strength to Paro's (Mahie Gill) character. Protagonist Dev.D's (Abhay Deol) lover, she is fearless in her commitment and is sexually liberated. Nobody can miss these, though at places it is more suggestive than explicit.

Weaving into the narrative aggression, recklessness, exuberance and conflicting sensibilities that are the signs of modern youth, Kashyap shows how streetwalker Chanda (Kalki Koechlin) weans Dev away from a disastrous life he sinks into after breaking with Paro. Chanda is as fiercely independent as Paro, but a tad stronger. Finally, Dev rises from the deep abyss he has got into with alcohol and drugs, pushing him into an almost insane deliriousness.

Performances are uniformly impressive, and Kashyap's experiment with the plot, interpreting it differently and making the women characters steely, did help the movie considerably at the boxoffice when it opened some months ago in India.

However, the overuse of abusive language, Dev's overt sexual addiction and the inclusion of a few unbelievable incidents (for instance, Chanda becomes a prostitute after her nude pictures appear on the mobile telephone network) turn the work unnecessarily dark. The innumerable songs (mercifully some very short) and the excessive use of strange color combinations merely distract attention from what could have been a taut work. Somewhere the crispness gets lost, and the movie loses its punch.

Production: UTV Motion Pictures
Sales: UTV Motion Pictures
Cast: Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechlin
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Story: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
Screenwriter: Anurag Kashyap, Vikram Motwane
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala
Director of photography: Rajeev Ravi
Production designer: Sukanta Panigrahy
Music: Amir Trivedi
Costumes: Shubra Gupta
Editor: Aarti Bajaj
No rating, 144 minutes
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