Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Dev.D’ is Now on Netflix!

When I was recently asked to speak at a private school in Brooklyn, to introduce around 55 Ninth Graders to a bit of Indian culture and show them a film that would at once entertain them but also allow them to see the country, the people and the vibe of the place, I immediately thought of ‘Dev.D’. Though it’s not exactly a PG13 film, deals with plenty of mature themes and shows a very modern view of contemporary India — devoid of the fluff that the typical tourists and Travel Channel remote control travelers see — it’s by far my favorite adaptation of the classic Bengali tale of ‘Devdas’ and a thrilling film which would captivate the young, Indo-inexperienced audience. Unfortunately, when their teacher asked me how she could preview it, I found out the film had not been released on DVD in the US. I had my copy from the local Hindi DVD shop, but it was an import and therefore Netflix did not carry it in its otherwise extensive Hindi cinema catalog.

But these days, that’s no longer a problem. ‘Dev.D’ is indeed available on DVD, Netflix and the works and I suggest that if you haven’t seen it, you put in your queue, rent it, buy it, steal it but absolutely WATCH IT! Below is a reprint of my original ‘review’ though I find it difficult to do anything other than gush about this beautiful film by an equally fabulous filmmaker, starring one of my favorite women in the world! N-joy! 

“There is always one word that comes to my mind when I think of Indian director Anurag Kashyap: trendsetter. His films are guaranteed to be way ahead of their time, look-wise as well as in the subjects he touches upon and the messages behind his stories. Beyond the artistic vision of this fantastic filmmaker, there stands a man who is not afraid to take chances for the good of all Indian cinema, pushing the envelope on a classic like the story of Devdas and coming out the winner for it. His pioneering vision has been, slowly but surely, eroding at the standard western perceptions of Hindi films as “a bunch of people singing while dancing around a tree.”

That I personally find Mr. Kashyap the most generous, real and talented man in filmmaking today may tint my judgment just a bit, but regardless of my personal views, his work speaks for itself. He combines the grand imagination of Federico Fellini, the lavish elegance of Luchino Visconti and the depth of story and realism of Vittorio De Sica. All with a bit of Nino Rota‘s musical extravagance thrown in. But above and beyond any labels we can bestow on him, he is Anurag Kashyap, the pioneer, the visionary.

Dev.D is based on the story of Devdas, a tale which is as old as Indian cinema itself. According to Abhay Deol, the fantastically talented and handsome star of the film, there have been eleven incarnations of the story made into movies thus far, and plenty more to come. I have personally not read the original novel by Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, but I have seen two of the films – most recently the Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Shah Rukh Khan 2002 version – and must admit that the story always left me disappointed in the end. But Dev.D finally satiates this hopeless romantic’s imagination with new twists and turns and a Devdas character who is more honest, likable and understandable.

The basic tale of Devdas revolves around a man – in this case named Dev – who finds in alcohol and drugs a refuge from his own inability to stand up for love. Torn between his childhood sweetheart Paro and the “courtesan” woman who is by his side in the present, Chanda, Dev brings to mind a favorite quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” With modern twists to this classic tale, which include a young Chanda taken from the headlines of the MMS case in Delhi, the story stays with the viewer, long after the film ends.

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