David: Three for the price of one!
One’s a super stylish, black and white, moody gangster film that punctuates the narrative with sudden bursts of bullets in the tradition of the best noir films. And David (Neil Nitin Mukesh is really good) is the good guy-protecting-the-bad facing a moral crisis.
Another is a grungy, high-energy, coming-of-age tale of a young musician who sets out to avenge his father’s honour. David (an earnest Vinay Virmani) here, is the good guy wanting to embrace bad for revenge.
The third is a slow, lazy, breezy, drunk… almost stoner, unusual ‘romance’ between a happy go lucky drunk and a deaf and dumb girl. David (Vikram is endearing) here is a bad guy (drunk, juvenile, vandal who goes around punching women) wanting to be good and romantic.
Yes, the fact that these three stories/genres are set across different decades – in 1975, 1999 and 2010 – is a bit of a stretch and even more when the filmmaker insists that the climax of all three stories happened on March 3rd!
To be honest, I was dreading the fact of watching a film connected only by a name that might end up having a contrived climax that tries to tie up everything. But luckily for me, David was all about the journey and not the destination.
David is an exploration of morality – between right and wrong – and it does so with so much more restraint and style than the blatant in-your-face good versus evil face-off in Mani Ratnam’s Kadal. While I knew from the promos that the film was going to pack a lot of style, what I didn’t anticipate was the surprising amount of soul and substance and a filmmaker in supreme control, so damn confident of his craft.
Here, you are not just rushing through the motions for the sake of pace but exploring it slowly, letting your audience soak in the rich textures of character, their environments and inner turmoil. David is the journey into that part of the mind that is at a two-way fork on the road and how their demons, their Daddy issues, their meeting with their Goddesses shape their destiny.
There is so much glorious detail in David that sets it apart from most Bollywood films. Every frame is so exquisitely composed and choreographed to capture character and mood, a perfect marriage of form and content. The first is dead serious, the second bitter-sweet realistic and the third completely zany and creative. While each character study is faithful to the genre the story is set in, the journeys of the three Davids have one thing in common – they all want answers. David is about the unravelling of those answers while cashing in on its artistic licence and constantly reminding you of its fictional nature through its storytelling devices – music video-like montage sequences, stylised action (the shootout sequence is simply fantastic), surreal supernatural twists, larger than life atmospherics and lavish shot compositions that will put Sanjay Leela Bhansali to shame.
Remember that classy, slo-mo shootout picturisation of the jazzy version of Khoya Khoya Chand in Shaitan that the filmmaker indulged in simply because it looked so cool? There’s a similar boxing sequence here set to Damadam Mast Kalander. Only that this time, Bejoy connects it to what’s going on in the film and uses it to underline the David-Golaith theme running through the film. This is not style for the sake of it. This is style that underlines the film’s central conflict. As a physical manifestation of the battle with the demons.
The relationships are so tenderly etched out in all three stories – be it the classic love story in the first, the unusual bond between an elderly widow and a musician or the beautiful friendship between a drunk and the lady running a massage parlour. It’s these touches that give David its heart and their meditation on the choices they need to make, gives the film its soul. The all encompassing style with which the narrative unfolds is just a huge bonus.
David has to be among the best looking films to have ever come out of India. I’m happy to report that it’s also among the bravest. It’s never afraid to be politically incorrect, whether the Davids are doing right or wrong. Bejoy gets it right.
It’s easy to make a fast film. To make a slow one requires balls.
It’s easy to make a film as a moral science lesson. But to make an amoral film requires guts.
David packs in the spirit of the indie in the big bad world of Bollywood Golaiths.
Mr. Orange approves, Mr. Nambiar.
(I saw a bit of the Tamil version as well, Jiiva is fantastic in it. Will surely now go watch the semi-dubbed Tamil version just for him!)