Director: Sudhir Mishra; Cast: Richa Chadda, Aditi Rao Hydari, Rahul Bhat, Saurabh Shukla
Sudhir Mishra’s latest film has a title that wants to scream at you its creativity — or lack thereof — but ends up with an indiscernible, squeaked out nonsense. Mishra begins with three notes, one to the author of Devdas, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, another to Shakespeare, and the third to his grandfather, Dwarka Prasad Mishra. They together make up some balderdash one liners about love, power and politics.
But if this film was serious enough for Mishra to begin with personal notes, why is there an absence of heart? There isn’t even a semblance of staging. Why is absolutely no one in the film interested? Daas Dev is a level of shoddy that I did not know, of all people, Sudhir Mishra was capable of. The very idea of iterating over Devdas in 2018 sounds like a paper that must be flung into, not the recycle bin, but some permanent resting place.
Das is Dev (Rahul Bhat) and Paro is Paro (Richa Chadda). The makers don’t even want to disturb the Wikipedia editors enough to find out the names of the principal characters in this version. Chandramukhi, though, is Chandni (Aditi Rao Hydari), the narrator of this story. That this straight-shooting film needed a constant voice-over is puzzling. Chandni the narrator is self-aware. She quips about us, the audience, recognising that she is the Chandramukhi of this story.
Apparently, the makers are clued in on our weariness about Devdas. She even yells during a moment, asking for a song to be switched off and the song in the background abruptly stops. She admits she hates that song. We see a ray of hope. Maybe at some point she’ll have similar thoughts as us about this film and request that it all be wrapped up. No luck. This Devdas train trudges on. With its disinterested direction, devoid of nuance in its treatment of politics, power, love. At one point, Dev, excited by his new political prospects, walks into tense territory against advice, without appropriate security. We hear gunshots and see ten to twenty villagers fleeing. We don’t know from what. When we arrive at the scene, it looks like some villagers had just finished having heavy lunch and were all about to partake in a nice, long siesta.
Aditi Rao Hydari is here doing what she does best — look ethereal and flawless in terrible films. Richa Chadda is here doing what she does best — impart some dignity to the proceedings where nothing is going right. Rahul Bhat, I don’t know what he does best. If it is looking like a Fawad Khan knockoff, then he’s got it all taken care of. As for Sudhir Mishra? We know what he does best. He’ll be better remembered.