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PREPARE FOR a long, slow exposition on the system! Of cops and communal tension. Take your time to figure out why some people do the things they do and why are deaths so conveniently used to further political ambitions. And while you are at it, also wonder why Mr. Govind Nihalani would want to rake up the Hindu-Muslim disharmony, just when attempts are being made to improve relations. To tell a story, he would say, perhaps!

"Dev" takes a long time to pull you into its vortex. There are some worthy issues. All aspects of life are shown through the Joint Commissioner Of Police, Dev Pratap Singh (Amitabh Bachchan), a seasoned and proud officer who is tough when it comes to criminals and anti-nationals.

But he is also perceived as being anti Muslim — not just because his five-year-old son is the victim of the bullet fired by some Muslim terrorists. So he is a Muslim hater and that suits Latif (Ehsan Khan) a politician and supporter of terrorism. And then there is Special Commissioner, Tejinder Khosla (Om Puri), Dev's friend of 30 years, who is still hurting over the death of his godchild. He is the balancing factor between the political interests of Chief Minster Bhandarker (Amrish Puri) and Dev's commitment to truth and justice.

Young Farhaan (Fardeen Khan) has done law, is unemployed and full of fire. While his peace-loving father preaches non-violence, incidents lead to death. Farhaan gets inextricably pulled into it (terrorism), spurred on by Latif. Dev predictably is the catalyst and now Farhaan wants revenge. Amidst all this hate and anger is Aliya (Kareena Kapoor) who brings tenderness into his life, but is alarmed over his activities. From this point events spiral on to more violence and mass deaths — all caused by politically selfish people — and Dev and Tejinder find themselves at a crossroads in their professions and in their friendships. While performances make this film worth viewing — especially Om Puri, Fardeen and Kareena (Amitabh's is taken for granted) there are many ambiguities that don't convince — things are left vague and unexplained.

Despite the clichés and commercialism (with the tone and feel of an art film notwithstanding), the film has some finer aspects such as the background score (Zuben Billimoria) that moves appropriately, camera work (also by Govind Nihalani), some really excellent art direction by Sharmistha Roy and of course the man who carries the film on his seasoned shoulders — Amitabh Bachchan.


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