Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Rahul Bhat, Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Saurabh Shukla, Vineet Kumar Singh, Vipin Sharma
There are many problems with Daas Dev but lack of ambition isn’t one of them. Director Sudhir Mishra, who has also co-written the story, takes one of Indian literature and cinema’s most beloved characters – Devdas – and marries him with an iconic Western counterpart – Hamlet. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay meets Shakespeare. On paper, it is electric. On screen, it’s a mess.
I think the words overwrought and convoluted were created only so one day they could be used to describe Daas Dev. Having decided that his hero, played by Rahul Bhat, will embody two legendary characters, Sudhir and his co-writer Jaydeep Sarkar, bung in twists and turns from both narratives. The film is grossly overstuffed.
The Devdas track is also reversed so here the character starts out as an addict and then sobers up. The setting is small-town UP. Dev is born into a political dynasty. But his happy childhood is scarred by death. He grows up to be a wastrel who is shooting up in nightclubs. But soon enough, he is forced to dive into his family’s dirty business.
Paro, played by an indifferent Richa Chadha, is also a political animal. Chandramukhi, here Chandni played by Aditi Rao Hydari, is a femme fatale fixer who gets things done by sleeping with the men who need to do them. It’s a compelling set-up but the narrative doesn’t give any time for these characters or their emotions to develop. There is no build-up or depth. Instead every scene presents a new turn in the tale – so much happens and so randomly that we need Chandni’s voice-over to connect the dots and explain exactly what is happening and how we are supposed to feel.
The second half is slightly more coherent. The narrative works its way to a climax that wants to be a great Shakespearean tragedy but it doesn’t succeed. The other problem is that Rahul is utterly out of his depth as Dev. Devdas has been played by acting legends like Dilip Kumar and Hamlet by Sir Laurence Olivier. To pull off a hybrid of these two characters, you need an actor who combines chops with charisma.
Rahul looks confused and truthfully, the awkward dialogue doesn’t help his case. In one scene with Paro, he says – Is this goodbye, this is goodbye. It is excruciatingly banal. The relationship between Paro and Dev is the spine of this narrative but Rahul and Richa seem barely interested in each other. The better performances – Saurabh Shukla, Vineet Kumar Singh, Vipin Sharma – get lost.
Daas Dev is meant to be a study of power and what happens to those who lust for it. It’s a solid idea lost in execution.