Saturday, March 20, 2010

Film Review: Love Sex Aur Dhokha

The moral fabric of a rapidly transforming urban India comes under the scanner in Dibakar Banerjee's audacious new offering: Love, Sex aur Dhokha. Banerjee's is an altogether distinct voice in Indian cinema today -- his attention to detail and complex characters manage to create a completely authentic North Indian milieu (those who've lived in that part of the country will attest to the fact that his characters possess an uncanny resemblance to people they know in real life). Shot entirely in Dogma-style, using hand-held and "hidden" cameras, unknown actors and a complete disregard for vanity, LSD looks destined for cult status.

The triptych narrative features characters caught in a web of familiar human emotions: insecurities, jealousy, despair; and the astonishingly natural performances add to the surprising emotional resonance of this film -- especially during the stunning denouement of the seemingly frivolous and light-hearted initial chapter. This first story lovingly mocks traditional Yash Raj romances -- the film-school student making his diploma film addresses his dialogues to Adi sir while re-creating the Raj/Simran love story for his film (makes sense for such a radically different film to acknowledge the existence of mainstream Bollywood).

The three stories featured here are inspired by real life events -- and LSD makes us realize how desensitized we've become to these shocking stories that appear in our newspapers everyday, thanks to the onslaught of reality television and a hyper-invasive media. The actors here perform as if they are unaware of the cameras focused on them -- ironic, since Nikos Andritsakis's camera is almost a character by itself, an inherent part of this film's voyeuristic impulses. 

The dialogues and interactions between the characters are painfully real. I swear I've seen the disgustingly hilarious conversation that's played out in the second chapter at the store between the day-time store girl and the character played by Raj Kumar Yadav in front of my eyes! This is also the strongest of the film's three chapters -- shot entirely using security cameras and featuring excellent performances by Yadav and Neha Chauhan and scene-stealing turns by the watchman and the actress who plays the day-time store girl (must look up her name!).

I must admit that I was very wary of this film coming off as too gimmick-y when I first read about it months ago -- primarily because the themes handled here have already been explored with varying levels of success in recent movies (MMS porn clips, casting couch and sting operations form the basis for the other two stories). But Banerjee and co-screenwriter Kanu Behl have managed to dig deep into these issues and they pull no punches in embracing the disturbing nature of these pulp-y tales. The narrative is consistently engaging (thanks in no small part to Namrata Rao's superb editing). 

Love, Sex Aur Dhokha may as well have been titled Sex, Lies and Videotape, Steven Soderbergh's Palme d'Or winning 1989 film that went on to shape an entire decade of independent filmmaking in Hollywood. Whether LSD will be as influential as that film remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: with three brilliant films already under his belt, it's time to officially induct Dibakar Banerjee into our list of great Bollywood directors. I can't wait to see what he does next. B+


  1. oh love it ... ur straight forward review ... btw his next is a crime thriller wid Abhay in the lead :)

  2. the day time store girl is Namrata Rao (yes, the editor of the film) :)

  3. @mr. weirdo: A thriller? That sounds great!

    @Anonymous: Wow! Thanks, I was completely unaware of that!

  4. Well written....even I loved the movie...direction is amazing and its great to see newcomers performing really well.

  5. The movie mirrors the insensitivity and callousness of the society today

  6. @Anonymous

    Thanks! I didn't know about Namrata Rao either!

    Damn neat review yourself Sid. Just didn't get the B+ at the end of it when you have gone all red in the face telling people why you liked it that much!

    What have been your A+ movies off Bollywood the last few years?

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  8. @Dr. Gonzo: I re-watch many movies and usually the grades for films I love tend to improve (I'm already leaning towards an A- for LSD as it keeps improving in my head). I need to see it again!

    I'm not a big fan of the A+ grade (it should be reserved for classics and awarded many years down the line!), A is usually the highest for me -- here are some films that I loved in the last decade. Most of these are B+ (the honorable mentions), and A- or A films (the top ten), IMO.

  9. By god you are very strict on yourself yaar! And on the movies you watch! What use are top ratings if you award them posthumously only? Ratings should also be awarded (if at all) at a nascent moment immediately when you are done with a film. Without thinking more about it. Without worrying much about it. How was the first time experience for you? I mean if you view your writing as an advertisement to pull more people into watching the film (I write ONLY for that motive), that is essentially what it must be.

    But of course, that being my view. I like your rating, and your list!

    More comments there!

  10. Well, the rating with the review is actually the immediate rating that I would assign to a film. Like I said, multiple viewings, time and distance can improve films in many cases for me. That B+ is more like 4/5 which is a more regular rating scale, which I'd say = Great.

    I'm not even sure if the grade or rating hold much importance -- I feel that a review can serve a much bigger purpose -- to bring out discussion-worthy elements in a film. I often find reading reviews after watching the film to see if the reviewer was able to give me a fresh insight, or if the mood of the film was captured well in the review (which I must say, your review captured perfectly in this case).

    The grading can be ignored, really, since it's all so subjective -- the bottom line is that I really dug the movie. I would definitely want to re-visit it sooner rather than later :)