‘Daas Dev’ review: Devdas in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh

A still from the movie ‘Daas Dev’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There are the bare bones of the story of the biggest lover-loser of Bengali literature to which Sudhir Mishra adds a touch of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He then updates the familiar triangle of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas to Uttar Pradesh politics. There are the children (neighbours and sweethearts too) of two political families — Dev Pratap Chauhan (Rahul Bhat) and Paro (Richa Chadda) — who come together and fall apart depending on the political exigencies. Then there is the political hustler and escort Chandni (Aditi Rao Hydari) who is not only the sutradhar, a silent lover but also the one who manipulates the professional and personal trajectory of the reluctant politician that is Dev; and decides the destinies of several other politicians too.

Daas Dev
  • Director: Sudhir Mishra
  • Starring: Rahul Bhat, Richa Chadda, Aditi Rao Hydari, Saurabh Shukla, Vipin Sharma, Vineet Singh, Anil George, Sohaila Kapur, Anurag Kashyap
  • Run time: 140 minutes
  • Storyline: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas meets Shakespeare’s Hamlet in politically fraught Uttar Pradesh

Some interesting dialogue and a solid set of performers in the supporting cast--whether it’s Saurabh Shukla, Vipin Sharma, Vineet Singh, Sohaila Kapur or Anil George — make Mishra’s Daas Dev quite watchable. They catch your eye and interest even when they are on screen for merely a moment. The film itself, however, does not. You don’t get out of the theatre feeling that you have witnessed something that you hadn’t seen or grappled with before. The references to farmers’ protests, land grabbing, bauxite mining don’t go beyond the surface, remain just passing mentions or backdrops than issues to actively engage with.

The politics of the Daas Dev has been visited and revisited since times immemorial in cinema. It’s a familiar tale of greed, intrigues, deceit, corruption, cynicism, how lust for power leads to degeneration. And it's also an expectedly patriarchal, male order where women are mere objects, just a means to an end (look out for the scene in which three wives and 15 daughters of a politician shield him) but some of them know how to twist this to fuel their own ambitions. However, why they decide to stay loyal to their spineless men is a question that still needs a compelling answer.

Mishra’s own Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi (2005) made one pause, ponder and reflect on the times it was set in. While Daas Dev does have force and vigour, it’s been told with a lot of energy and drive. Wish it could have got visceral enough.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 12:29:42 PM |

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