Mumbai, 27 Apr 2018 10:59 IST
The film does have a storyline to match Shakespeare and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's iconic works, but overcomplicates itself too much.
Daas Dev begins with a dedication to Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Shakespeare. While there is quite a distance between Tollygunge and Stratford Upon Avon, Sudhir Mishra's epic drama seeks to bridge the gap.
It succeeds in creating an atmosphere of intrigue, political machinations, revenge and bloodiness which the bard would have liked, but fails to rise to the romantic ideals of Chattopadhyay. In betwixt, to paraphrase Shakespeare, lies the tragedy.
The story belongs to Dev (Rahul Bhat) a drug-addled, narcissistic, 'non-socialist' son of a socialist politician (Anurag Kashyap in a special appearance). His uncle's (Saurabh Shukla) clout as a 'kingmaker' ensures that Dev gets to run his whimsical devices. His only hope is Paro (Richa Chadha), the daughter of his father's loyal supporter (Anil George).
After the nth incident of Dev's run-in with thugs, Paro finally tires of his drug-addled stumbling through life and sets out to create a political career for herself. That's when Dev seeks out Chandni (Aditi Rao Hydari), the daughter of an industrialist, but more of a honey-trap for her father's political investors.
In Dev, Chandni finds a man who might be her way out of this mess. But for Dev, the more he escapes the addiction, the reality of the murkiness that surrounds his family and its politics emerges.
Director Sudhir Mishra has suggested that the film is not a remake of Chattopadhyay's Devdas. He is right. The film owes more to Shakespeare than the Bengali writer. Mishra's story begins with the tragic romance of Devdas, but soon morphs into the political-revenge drama of Hamlet, with a touch of Julius Caesar thrown in (There is even a Hindi version of 'I come not to bury Caesar', right in the middle).
Where Mishra succeeds is in building a plot that is heavily political, intriguing, with characters plotting against each other. However, in attempting to bridge two great tragedies, the writer-director also introduces too many elements that prove distracting.
The effort of stitching the two disparate tragedies together drags the plot and makes the story somewhat untenable. The film carries shadows of Mishra's earlier works, like Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, but minus its sharpness.
The dialogues also lack any punch. There are a few standout lines that sparkle, but on the whole, the conversations are meandering. The predictable twists add to the sense of meandering through the middle.
Saurabh Shukla remains impeccable as the kingmaker who is caught in the path of destruction caused by Dev's Hamlet. His turn as the canny politician willing to do anything to protect his legacy makes for a great character. The actor walks a tightrope between kind and cruel with nonchalant ease.
Rahul Bhat manages to deliver a sincere performance as the Hamletian Dev with the right balance of romance, and tragedy. However, the actor struggles with the dramatic element and fails to convince you of the anger and vengeance the character needs to possess.
Richa Chadha as Paro is another performance that leaves you a little unsatisfied. The actress is capable of a lot more than she displays on the screen.
Aditi Rao Hydari gives the impression of being remotely disinterested in her character. Another actress capable of quite a lot, she fails to give her complex, opportunist Chandni any depth. Some fault of it goes to the writing as well, for the character seems too clingy for a practical political tool.
For two strong, modern and independent women, the reason for Paro and Chandni's blind adoration of Dev is inexplicable.
The film does have a fantastic ensemble cast with Vipin Sharma and Vineet Kumar Singh, who make the most of their roles. As for Anurag Kashyap, the director seems to be a forced presence playing the ghost directing the progress of the entire story.
Mishra's work is well layered, but overcomplicates itself in trying to make a political statement. Its ideology and its attempt to make a statement prove too heavy a hubris and contribute to its downfall. Incidentally, these are themes that Shakespeare loved.
In the end, like Hamlet, one is forced to lament on the possibilities.
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