21 March 2010 | shashikrishna
Blurring the difference between the camera and the director
India has never been as innocent as it consistently claims to be. If you are, however, one of those naïve citizens sitting behind a veil of ridiculous reasons who actually believes this, then I couldn't feel sorrier for you. In fact, if you pay closer attention to reality, you might never look at our beloved nation the same way again. One simple Google search and you will find an alarming amount of voyeuristic material of folks in brazenly compromising positions peppered all over the Internet. And no – it isn't just those light headed, dizzy for that fifteen seconds of fame teens or fellers in their early 20s who are churning out these clips either – no. A good amount of it comes from middle aged, aging, and even ancient crisis-ridden junta who are desperate for some sort of thrill in their otherwise mundane and excruciatingly cliché-laden lives that contains nothing more than mindless work.
With that preface done with – let us now focus on Dibakar Banerjee's latest offering 'Love, Sex aur Dhoka' (LSD). I am sure enough spice has already been generated thanks to the extremely obvious hint in the title itself of a dozen saucily executed romp scenes just waiting to tease your aphrodisiacal senses. And yes – this will also take a good amount of our sex-starved nation's goggle-eyed wannabes to go see the flick too. But that's when the fine line between those who went into the cinema expecting a popularized version of a badly edited B-grade mallu movie type sleaze-fest and the ones who walked in expecting a new way of storytelling becomes quite apparent. A divide, I am hoping, will have more fans in the latter category.
After watching the 1 hour 40 something minute dish called LSD, one thing is certain. Dibakar is one of those refreshingly cocky bunch of film makers who are quite unperturbed by what the mass populace has to say as long as their distinct tone of message is sent across without fear. It is in this essence of movie making, that Dibakar scores points in my book. Come what may, he seems to say, I will show you my vision the way I want you to see it. It is in this raw, unedited, low-light/night-shot array of frames that the much needed breaking of stereotypical shackles Indian cinema is bound with can be heard – loud and clear. If only, of course, you are willing to listen. If only, of course, you are willing to acknowledge.
LSD is completely shot via hand-held digital cameras, security cameras installed in public places and hidden spy cams tucked away in not-so- obvious spots. The tale unwraps with three distinct stories of Love, Sex and Dhokha – as is obvious in the title. What is not so obvious is the way Dibakar stitches the characters in each of them so craftily that the moments where their connections become apparent are truly memorable. The minimalist usage of background music layered with the brave attempts at showcasing emotions in their true and blue nature emanating from nameless faces is truly a new attempt in Bollywood. Actually it is quite new to Indian cinema too.
My take on the execution part of LSD is more to do with technique and philosophy rather than the stories themselves. Sure, the plots have their moments but they aren't anything we haven't already heard of or seen. Some of the scenes are overdone and there are even characters that let you down by actually 'acting'. So, in my humble opinion, walking into LSD to expect it to sweep you off the feet with the narrative could be a tad misleading. What I would hope you pay special attention to is how the fine line between fiction and reality gets blurred without you even realizing it. There came a point in the film when my wife turned to me and said 'This is nonsense! It just seems like they have stitched together some clips from YouTube!'
Notwithstanding her disapproving conclusion on the film, I must say, that is exactly what Dibakar was trying to achieve. Fading out that line where you forget these people are actors and that they do realize there is a camera somewhere recording their actions.
My suspicion with this theme then is the following. LSD will have two clear opinions. One - folks who loved the piece and understood the intentions with which Dibakar shot the flick and narrated the tale the way he did. And two, a majority from what I can tell, who absolutely hated the movie and found it annoyingly ambitious and contrived in its bizarre Hollywood-style-pretentiousness like approach executed in a rather disturbing and amateurish fashion. Either way, LSD will evoke a reaction in you that will stay long with you after having long left the cinema.
My recommendation then? Go watch it. Not just to love it immensely or hate it profusely, but to be part of a threshold that has never been tapped on before. To be witness to a milestone in Indian film making where the director is absent from the scenes. To be an audience to a movie where the camera is calling the shots. Just for this, LSD to me will be a unique movie watching experience. And yes – do also watch it before a dozen more remakes flood the market claiming to be better than the original.