Movie: Love Sex And Dhokha
Cast: Anshuman Jha, Neha Chauhan
Direction: Dibakar Bannerjee
These vignettes, partly about love, primarily to do with sex, should seem a dhokha (treachery) to lay audiences across. Most eyes are trained, per tradition, to view films a particular way: shot under unnatural light; picturised to perfect a sameness; images, larger than life can ever aspire for.
This film appears with a background that has no score; actors who are not meant to be; and scratchy images that bear no polish, leave aside cinematic flourish. This movie, then, is anything but. It’s effectively a dogma film: my personal favourite genre. It owes its origins to a counter-cultural movement that started in Europe in the mid ’90s, largely in extreme response to the vanity, artificial scale, and popcorn fakeness of Hollywood blockbuster entertainment.
Danish Lars von Trier remains still the genre’s finest exponent: his Beyonce starrer Dancer In The Dark (2000), I think, should make for everyone’s ’50 greatest movies’ bucket list. There are many other worthy instances. An Indian one that comes to mind is the brilliant, Ram Madhvani’s Let’s Talk (2002; Boman Irani’s debut: a must-pick).
This one is an accomplished addition. Everything on screen here is meant to be real, even less than a dramatic recreation of events. Raw emotions and action is captured on a digital camera — in this case, handheld, close-circuit, and spy-cam.
The hand-held camera belongs to an aspiring director who falls in love with the heroine of his diploma film. The boy got into a Z-grade media school called Zima on a scholarship reserved for scheduled castes. The girl is the daughter in a mofussil rich family that makes marbles for a living, and builds vulgar castles for their own home. Between this couple, you can sense confounding effects popular culture (Bollywood, TV) can have on young, confused minds; something we don’t collectively recognise or discuss enough. The boy, a “dilwala”, making a film called ‘Mehndi Racha Ke Rakhna’ imagines for real, a world of Raj, Simran, her “palat” (turn), and Aditya Chopra (the director) he makes intimate conversations with. The girl’s family lives in an equally but another kind of dark age.
The spy-cam is attached to a small departmental store that employs girls to help customers. It’s also the setting for a random shoot-out. This shoot-out footage fetches an employee, lots of cash. It turns out voyeur shots of even “pappi jhappi” (couples making out) can make lots of money, let alone more compromising positions. The employee sets up a naïve girl — dark, hence undesirable — from his supermarket.
There’s a thriving, cottage industry elsewhere that funds this racket. They stick out spy-cams to capture risqué images, blackmail public figures, hit the jukebox jackpot. This could be the background to any recent small screen scandal: politician ND Tiwari, Swami Nithyanand, model Anara Gupta....
The three entirely separate stories about low-lives are lamely inter-connected — a devise made popular of course by Alejandro Inarritu’s Amores Perros (2000).
While there is unity of time, that cannot be said for space. You can’t quite place this film over its three narratives. While the first (girl-boy) seems set in the country’s relative innards, where honour is in the killing; the second is supposed to be a highway corner store; and the third is certainly B-grade showbiz Mumbai.
The film however effectively exposes the fat, sexual underbelly that sags out of the middles of this disturbingly prejudiced middle India. All art attempts to mirror the human state. A film like this does it with least subtleties. The minimalism in acting, camera, and art work, only add to the distressing premise. It lends the additional jolt. I felt quite shaken.
Were it not for titles behind the director’s name (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye), and a rather brave, unlikely producer (Ekta Kapoor), this film wouldn’t have entered theatres with the sort of splash it has. It’s a sort of flick you ideally discover without burdens of expectation: a caveat you must bear in mind, in case you were planning on rushing off to cinemas right away. Where any Bollywood movie without a gyrating, lip-synching hero perceives itself as ‘different’, this one, from an audience’s point of view, is truly an experiment.