Dev D ain’t any Devdas that we expected it to be. The director makes it very clear in the first reel of the movie which says “Loosely based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya’s Novel Devdas”. Its certainly more than just a brilliant attempt at taking the essence of one of the most famous novels of India literary and putting into a modern age drama. The India in which Sarat Chandra wrote this novel, has changed, transformed and got a face lift both aesthetically and ethically. So what you see is grey and not black & white. Dillip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan made Devdas a brooding, weak and self destructive lover, who had loved just one woman in his life and for him love meant those countless moon-lit nights and pure and pristine form of eternal love. Nothing of that sort here. Anurag Kashyap is known for his brilliant movies, which encompasses the contemporary India in its various facets, this was no difference. But then he had a hard thing to follow as all the previous attempts, with the novel as the plot, has resulted success. So the legacy was to be followed.
But the audiences who think this one to be a Devdas revisited are certainly in for a surprise. So the first surprise, the Paro of Anurag Kashyap’s Devdas is modern, has her own identity and lives in a world where sexuality and virginity are not guarded behind iron bars of ethic and cultures. So when we see Paro carrying a mattress to the field just cause she couldn’t find a place else where to make love to Dev, she is speaking the language of modern woman who understands her physical needs better and does not shy away from that. Then you have Chanda, she of course draws a lot from Sarat Chandra’s Chandramukhi, she is a modern day courtesan. She is the new age escort-girl, who goes to college in the morning and by night she turns into a foul-mouthing ‘commercial sex worker’. Here too Anurag has used his brilliance in story by developing the character of Chandramukhi and not just copy pasting it from the Sarat Chandra’s creation. He brings in the DPS MMS scandal angle, as a prelude to Chandramukhi’s now-life. Now let’s come back to the Devdas, the man. Sarat Chandra’s cult novel had the hero as a lover who pined for his lost girl, the man who loved her with all the purity of his heart till his death, he was a weak but egoistic person, who turned to alcoholism only because he found solace there, he was self destructive cause he had no reason to live and therefore went ahead destroying himself, till he found Chandramukhi. Anurag’s Devdas, although not very different but at the same time had the signature of new age all over it. He dopes, he does not believe in the ‘purity’ of love, love for him is not only chemistry but physics and biology too.
Now looking at certain nuances that Anurag’s movie has, that lacked in earlier ones and even in the novel: He has given all his character an edge, that is they are not in black or whites they are grey, all the shades of grey. I always thought Paro to be a very uni-dimensional character, but here she is so much more, and Paro. Dev’s father was a strict and disciplined person in earlier one. But the Punjabi Dev's father turns a more lenient version of the earlier one. But the thing that made me feel really happy is Dev is no more a brooding, weak and tear-jerking hero. We don’t need to cry every time we see Dev crying, as he is mature in the way he does that. The colour of the movie and the way it has been presented is different. Dialogues, screenplay and cinematography is awesome. Every story has been narrated so very well and no character is less meatier than the other one. Devdas was so named cause, for Paro he was a das (as in, servant) and Chandramukhi worshipped him like a God, ala Dev. But you find neither here, Chanda and Paro of Anurag's Dev D are far away from the pre-independence era Paro and Chandramukhi. Even Chunni is no friend, he too has latent motives...
There are so many first times in the movie. You have the actress foul-mouthing like never before, acting in a manner which in India would be called immoral. You have two new actresses performing in a way that would put seasoned ones to shame. Music that uses bass-band party instruments for song. Anurag touches various evils in the society thru the movie in a way, where you actually look at those and think over them. He shows the MMS scandal in a way where you sit up and think. You empathise with the family that went thru all these situations. Then there is the BMW hit and run case also.
With so many things being told about the story and characters, lets talk about the actors. Mahi Gill is brilliant as Paro, she does it with élan. Its a difficult character and needs a lot of emotional balance and she does it with awesome panache. Kalki, who plays Chanda, does it like no one else. It was a tailor-made role for her. Her unconventional looks work really well for the movie and the character. She plays a very complex role but does it as a cake walk. Especially, the scene where she needs to fake an orgasm over phone, she does it so very well, it reminds me of Meg Ryan's on-screeen tryst with a similar (although, a different set up) attempt in When Harry Met Sally. But I think Kalki, given that it is her first movie, does it, if not better, at par with Meg Ryan. Now, Devinder Singh Dhillon, the new-age Dev from Chandigarh. Abhay Deol is a new age actor, who not only chooses his movies carefully but also makes sure that he plays the character with perfection. Oye Lucky Lucky oye, Socha Na Tha, Manorama Six Feet Under are kind of movies you associate with the actor. So as Dev he does not disappoint anyone. Infact the credit for the concept of this brilliant movie goes to this very man. Truly a very matured actor, who has taken the onus to deliver some brilliant off beat movies that infuses life into the formula driven Indian Film Industry (not bollywood, as said by Mr. Bachchan)
All in all this is an awesome movie that needs to be watched by every movie lover. Give it a slip at your own risk. Anurag Kashyap was long due for a movie of Dev D’s stature and he does it with this one. Beg borrow or steal, go ahead and see the movie. Its not ahead of its time, but definitely it will take a long time and a very bold steps to make a movie of this kind. The first half is brisk and fast paced, so you might just blink and miss things. But the second half is more easily paced and to some it might look as a drag as compared to the first half. Success no success this is a brilliant adaptation of Devdas.
In short Dev D is poetry on screen...