Movie review: David


Movie review: David

Cast:Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vinay Virmani, Vikram, Tabu, Isha Sharvani, Monica Dogra
Director: Bejoy Nambiar

SPOILERS AHEAD

It is apparent from the outset that the unusual narrative triptych that constitutes David has inherent potential. It is another matter that it is, at best, only partially realised.

Yet, in the end, writer-director Bejoy Nambiar delivers a film that he can be proud of, even more so than of Shaitan.

Soaring, stylized, scruffy, scrappy and sharp by turns, David is never low on energy.

It plays around with a wide range of emotions, from the extremely intense to the oddly comical, from the flightily romantic to the strictly familial.

It is about retribution, love and forgiveness - that is what each of its father-son stories respectively deals with. As the film repeatedly moves from the sublime to the absurd, it courts the risk of careening out of control. Mercifully, it doesn't.

With a run time of 155 minutes, David tends to be a tad flabby at times. In other words, its pace is anything but consistent.

That apart, the quality of the writing (both in terms of how specific situations are set up as well as in relation to the lines spoken by the less convincing characters) is somewhat uneven.

But there is always room for redemption. Negotiate the sudden leaps back and forth between time zones and stories. Overlook the occasional overstretched passages. And discount the gaps in factual accuracy and logic - mid-1970s London was hardly the kind of battleground for Indian secret agents and enemies of the nation that David would have us believe it was.

Take that in your stride, and the film, taken as a whole, might just make sense.

David displays courage on many fronts. One, none of its three storylines plays out along conventional lines.

The tale of vengeance, shot entirely in black and white and set in a sombre Muslim milieu in Bradford, is anything but your average revenge saga.

The love triangle - it is about a hard-drinking Goan, a younger friend and a dainty hearing and speech impaired girl - flies off at a delightfully whimsical tangent, never to let go of its zany surrealism.

And the thematically strongest, if not necessarily the most riveting, segment of the film - woven around a struggling Mumbai musician's thwarted ambitions and his rediscovery of a misunderstood father in extremely trying circumstances - takes on stark political overtones rooted in the theme of religious fundamentalism.

The stories, set in three different eras (1975, 1999 and 2010), are tenuously connected and the film jumps from one to the other as the three male protagonists, all named David, fight their inner demons over a period of exactly a month.

David is unique also because it is a rare Hindi film that locates itself exclusively in spaces where India's two principal minority cultures - Muslim and Christian - dominate, without the filmmaker resorting to the cliched ritualistic trappings that go with any such depiction of the communities on the big screen.

Interestingly, the only Hindus who are portrayed in David are just fringe players in the tale of a Christian priest and his music-loving son who are assaulted by a marauding mob led by a religious chauvinist (Rohini Hattangadi in a cameo) waging a counterfeit war against 'forced conversions'. For a Mumbai movie, quite a remarkable plot reversal that!

Visually, too, David isn't run of the mill, with each of the three stories projecting a distinct feel, texture and colour.

The black & white slice, in which Neil Nitin Mukesh is a cold-blooded hitman in the service of a patriarchal real estate tycoon who is on India's black list, is a dark, brooding and bloody gangster drama cast in the mould of a noir thriller where sly whispers and quiet gestures are enough to strike fear in the heart.

The Goan segment of the film has a hearty Latino flavour, enhanced markedly by Remo Fernandes' robust rendition of the Konkani festive song, Maria Pitache.

He belts out the number as a sloshed David (Vikram) unleashes pandemonium in a ramshackle shack that can barely withstand the all-out depredation.

The youngest David - the one in the Mumbai musician's story - is played by a dreadlocked Vinay Virmani (who debuted in 2011 with the Indo-Canadian Speedy Singhs).

His Rastafarian look lends parts of the film a Caribbean feel, which is played off against the humdrum trappings of the lower middle class chawl that he lives in.

Neil Nitin Mukesh, in Johnny Gaddar mode, delivers a performance that is restrained and yet forceful. Vikram lays into his character with obvious delight and vigour.

Vinay Virmani does not break into a sweat in articulating the anguish and anger of a young man who seeks elusive answers from an insensitive world.

The supporting cast is also a notch above the ordinary. Nasser (as the priest) and Tabu (as a spirited Goa massage parlour owner and David's wordly-wise confidante) make the most of the limited opportunities they are given.

Monica Dogra (as Noor, the girl in love with the London assassin) and Isha Sharvani (the hearing and speech impaired beauty) aren't wasted either.

Especially striking is Dogra's warts-and-all interpretation of a convention-defying woman who loves her man too passionately to care a damn about social and religious niceties.

David has enough sinew to offset its share of flaws. Strongly recommended.
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