Monday, September 13, 2010

LSD - Love, Sex aur Dhoka [Dibakar Banerjee]

A la Pulp Fiction or Amores Perros here is yet another variation on the theme of multiple story-lines intersecting. To this Dibakar (Khosla ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky...) Banerjee adds film and television's latest gimmick, the 'reality cam'. Of course, like with most other cam efforts, you have to swallow the conceit of the electronic eye maintaining a ludicrous level of narrative continuity, but what the hell. If the proceedings are sufficiently interesting, that is easily forgiven. Are they in this case? Lessee.
To justify the contrived title, Banerjee has three loosely intertwined episodes, at least two of which seem no more suited for one epithet than the other...or was that a deliberate and devious plan of the script? I don't know. In the first episode a perpetual camera-bearing amateur director making his diploma film - a cheap knockoff of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - gets into a romance with his lead actress and entangled with her roughneck Haryanvi family. The couple's affair is played out as a parody to the contents of the film they're shooting until the climax. They get the parody theme mostly right and there are some sweet moments thanks to the actors. However, this episode suffers from noticeable slack and the end being apparent to anyone other than the backbenchers of a 'special' school weakens it despite the implied savagery.

After this somewhat disappointing start, Banerjee slips into high gear with a cracking second episode about a lout in a store-cum-coffee-shop aiming to seduce one of the shop-girls in order to sell the footage on the store-cam. With keen observation, Banerjee captures the sordidness and humor of the situation without ever coming across as cheap. The performances of the lead actors in this episode (Neha Chauhan & Raj Kumar Yadav) is also to be applauded. Running length is again an issue but this episode comes padded with enough goodness to forgive that. Not so for the third and last episode, a surprisingly dull enactment of a sleaze journalist (portrayed as an ex-Tehalka 'sting' man) coaxing a maiden of flexible morals to entrap a Mika-lookalike pop singer into trading her career favors for sex. While the character of a reporter who shed his integrity (or whatever Tehalka likes to call it) for sex-press had a certain amount of potential, most of it is squandered on a very crude depiction of tabloid journalism. Realistic it may be, but it's also stale and boring.

So ya, an okey-dokey beginning, a really good mezzo and a soggy third act. To Banerjee's credit (and co-writers Urmi Juvekar & Kanu Behl) the episodes are hung together in a not entirely shabby manner, but what would have really worked is if they had chopped a third off the running time of each episode and put out a taut 60-minute film (or scrapped the scrappy title to put in an additional episode). The cinematography (Nikos Andritsakis) is done with care and is in its non-flashy way as good as for most 'reality-cam' movies I've seen. The settings are down to earth and credible, and Dibakar scores again with the colloquial touch for his third 'Delhi' film (dare we call this a trilogy?). But this is still a more-miss-than-hit experiment from the film-maker who had shown increasing promise with his first two feature outings.

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