In the starting credits of “Daas Dev”, Director Sudhir Mishra thanks three people - Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (the author of “Devdas”, the novel on which the film is based), William Shakespeare, and his grandfather D P Mishra, the former Congress leader and Madhya Pradesh chief minister. Mishra is obviously looking to combine the best of what these three gentlemen stood for as he tries to readapt the age-old tale of tragic love to the Hindi heartland and the hardcore politics that dominates it.
Chattopadhyay’s seminal work has inspired many a filmmaker, and its tragic, flawed hero has seen many iterations through the years in Indian cinema. Mishra certainly seems the man to make a political film out of it, given that his filmography includes “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” and “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi”.
But five minutes into “Daas Dev”, it is obvious that Mishra has left his earlier sensibilities far behind. “Daas Dev” is an amateurish, almost comical attempt, one that feels like it has been made by a novice rather than a veteran of the industry. Unlike in his earlier films, this one shows a complete lack of understanding of the craft and the milieu.
Dev (Rahul Bhatt) is the scion of a political family, but uses his wealth and power to waste away his life. His childhood sweetheart Paro (Richa Chadha) tries half-heartedly to rid him of his alcohol addiction, but is tired of his sullen ways. When Dev’s uncle falls ill, he is summoned back to his village and asked to take over the “family business”. Aiding him is Chandni (Aditi Rao Hydari), a fixer who works for politicians and who also doubles up as the narrator for the film.
Right from the first scene, “Daas Dev” lacks conviction. Mishra shows a surprising naivety about how politics works, having us believe that Dev can become a popular leader after one impromptu speech at a rally and giving into every single trope about double-faced politicians who would do anything to stay in power. The writing is half-baked and unconvincing, and it is only made worse by the fact that Mishra’s lead cast puts their worst foot forward.
As Dev, Bhatt is laboured and awkward. Richa Chadha’s forced dialogue delivery is cringeworthy and even though Hydari does a good job as the soft-spoken seductress, she is saddled with some of the film’s corniest lines.
Mishra seems content to let this mediocrity play out, cluttering his story with too many characters and plot points, none of which is satisfactorily resolved. The result is that “Daas Dev” ends up on the opposite spectrum of its original inspirations.
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