Love, Sex aur Dhokha is, as far as I know, the country?s first film to feature the word sex in its title. But that?s not the only thing that makes director Dibakar Banerjee?s third feature so provocative.
The film, with three inter-connected stories on love, sex and betrayal, is a grim, deeply unsettling and yet compelling portrait of urban India.
Love Sex aur Dhokha is ostensibly constructed from found footage, which was shot with security cameras and spy cameras. This isn?t an original idea ? Hollywood horror films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity and science-fiction dramas like Cloverfield and the Oscar-nominated District 9 work with the same device. But Banerjee uses it to tell three stories that could only originate in the Hindi hinterland, a complex and chaotic small town twilight zone defined by lust for money and fame, modern technology, feudal beliefs and extreme hypocrisy.
This is a world in which a prosperous businessman with hennaed hair and gold chains will impress a prospective NRI groom with his daughter?s film connections?she is the heroine of a student's film?but becomes brutal when she falls in love with her low-caste director.
Here everyone is on the make. So, a seemingly nice store worker reveals himself to be a mercenary who doesn?t hesitate to sell out a young girl he genuinely cares about. And compromise is a viable career strategy.
So, a young dancer exploited by a Bhangra pop star gets what she wants by turning as ruthless and exploitative as him.
This isn?t an easy film to watch. Since we?re supposedly watching second-hand footage, it?s deliberately clumsy, unfinished and un-cinematic. It will take you at least 10-15 minutes to adjust to the fuzzy faces and jerky camera movements. But while the grammar is disjointed, the narrative is seamless.
You recognise immediately the small-town scholarship student filmmaker who is attempting his own Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jeyenge, including video messages for his favourite Adi Sir or Aditya Chopra. At one point, he tells his lover that they won?t run away from her chauvinistic and cruel father and brother because Dilwale hain hum. He finds out too late that Bollywood love stories are just fairy tales.
Banerjee creates believable characters ? one of my favourite was the Punjabi pop star from hell ? Loki Local whose greatest hit is a song called Tu Nangi Acchi Lagti Hai. Banjerjee has a keen ear from local textures and dialogue and incredibly, he has gleaned impressive performances from his cast of rank newcomers. Each one has a raw vulnerability, which only makes their circumstances more heart-breaking.
Love Sex aur Dhokha falters in the second half. The second story feels too long and the last isn?t as smoothly done as the first two.
But the film is a worthy experiment created by one of Bollywood?s most imaginative and original directors.
Let me warn you that it is a polarizing film. You?re going to either love it or you?re going to hate it. But I strongly recommend that you don?t ignore it.