It was an audacious idea—blending Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s most famous work, Devdas with Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet and setting the film in the political cesspool of Uttar Pradesh.
Sudhir Mishra’s Daas Dev does not look as exciting on screen as it must have done on paper, more so since the director has added a dash of his own family history. Both the stories that have inspired this film are tragedies about love, betrayal and mental decline and demand sympathy for the suffering of the flawed protagonist; but Daas Dev leaves with the viewer with mixed feelings and little or no consideration for the problems of the lead and other characters. They are all black or in various shades of grey and deserve what they get.
It opens in 1997 when Dev’s father, a prominent politician (Anurag Kashyap in a small role, perhaps acknowledgement of his Dev D) is killed. Twenty years later, Dev has grown into an alcoholic junkie (Rahul Bhat). He is in love with Paro (Richa Chadha), daughter of his father’s associate (Anil George), but his life is steered by his ambitious uncle Awdhesh Pratap Chauhan (Saurabh Shukla). The third in the classic love triangle is Chandramukhi/Chandni, a fixer (Aditi Rao Hydari), and narrator of the story.
In keeping with the times, Mishra has not made the two women who inexplicably love the very unappealing Dev, into whiny weaklings. But, their strength and willfulness does not make them admirable in any way.
Mishra tries to keep stirring the dramatic cauldron and has a very watchable cast of supporting actors (Dalip Tahil, Vipin Sharma, Vineet Kumar Singh, Sohaila Kapur are there too), but he also clutters it with dense plotting too many characters and an intrusive soundtrack. These people driven by violence, greed and lust for power have been seen too many times before to be interesting any more, but their joint cacophony drowns out the man—Dev-- one is supposed to be watching for and Bhat simply does not have the screen presence to butt heads with the other seasoned actors.
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Starring: Rahul Bhat, Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Saurah Shukla and others
Rating: Two and a half stars