My Rating: BBB
Summary: Dibakar Banerjee uses non-sequential narrative and documentary-like hyper-realistic visual effect in Love, Sex aur Dhokha to drive his point home; there are multiple messages in the movie but everything is understated, and what you get is something far better than what you expected
For the first time I actually felt that the Censor Board should’ve censored a sequence in a film, and I’m surprised it isn’t a Hollywood film which has that moment (we leave out the X-rated movies), but a Bollywood movie by Dibakar Banerjee. This moment comes quite soon in Love Sex aur Dhokha, his third venture, and it does not have anything to do with sexual content. There is nothing wrong or immoral in showing simulated sexual content featuring two adults because it’s natural and obviously legal to have sex in real life. But violence is something that’s against the law, and Dibakar’s movie features a gross and distasteful fictional act of violence which when shown through a handheld low-quality camera that too in green light at nighttime makes you feel you’re watching snuff. A snuff film is one that depicts actual murder without special effects; here heads roll as an axe severs them and there’s sound of meat cleavers chopping body parts. The camera just lies at a distance from the point of action –there are no cuts and only little non-diegetic sound (i.e. background score). You’re at this point in the film squirming in your seat, making your mind whether to walk out or not but then the story moves on, thankfully to another place.
I am befuddled by the Indian Censor Board’s absurd decision to ask Banerjee to alter a reference to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Community (replaced by an arcane term ‘Special Case’ –really, by removing references YOU look like the ones who have a problem with scheduled caste/scheduled tribe people and don’t want them in your movies!) and shorten a lovemaking sequence (watching a blurred image in an original DVD of the film throws you off balance. You aren’t able to see the way the character is able to see the image in the film – and that stinks!) but happily retain a hyper-realistic murder act. I personally would’ve asked Dibakar to cut it midway to the next scene, leaving at least something to the viewer’s imagination. Well, apart from that, I was pretty happy with Love Sex aur Dhokha, which adopts a non-sequential narrative and a bold and sensational documentary-like visual style to drive its point home. There are plenty of social and cultural messages to find about the modern Indian lifestyle driven and destroyed by materialistic ambitions, and Banerjee allows us to intrude their world and experience it up-close through handheld recordings, security cameras and hidden cameras.
Love, Sex aur Dhoka is divided into three segments, and though each word in the title corresponds to the respective segments, you still a bit of everything in all the segments. The first segment involves the Great Indian Love Story between Rahul, an aspiring film director and Shruti, the lead actress in his low-budget film. What’s interesting here is how Banerjee shows neither Rahul nor Shruti as talented at what they are doing; in fact, Rahul’s film is beyond dreadful while Shruti’s acting is pathetic. The movie they make is again a ‘love story’ inspired by the quintessential romantic films of Shahrukh Khan; again Dibakar makes a smart move here: while Rahul’s name is the same as the name of Shahrukh in many of his films, the name Shruti is different from the usual ‘Simran’ whom we associate Shahrukh’s ‘Rahul’ with. So very often this Rahul mistakenly addresses Shruti as ‘Simran’, as if he can’t distinguish between film and reality. He manages to cast Shruti’s arrogant, thick-headed dad as a character so that he would allow Shruti to continue acting in the film. In doing so, he makes a lot of compromises which includes adding an irrelevant cheap dance sequence in his film. When Shruti’s marriage is fixed with a Canadian-Indian, Rahul and Shruti decide to elope which is ironic because that’s how the plot in their film originally progressed before Shruti’s father forced Rahul to alter it. The second segment uses security cameras, as opposed to the handheld DSLR cameras used in segment one; here, Adarsh (played by Raj Kumar Yadav) is dapper young man who hangs out all day at his friend’s store and doesn’t make an effort in getting a job for himself so that he can pay off his dues. When he misses his chance with one of the store girls, he decides to try his luck on a second one, but this time his intentions are maleficent –encouraged by his friend, the store owner’s son, he tries to lure the girl Rashmi into making love with him, so that he can record secretly an MMS tape and sell it for thousands of cash. The trouble here is that he actually begins to fall in love with her, and so it’s Adarsh himself who can curb the immoral act from happening. The third segment involves a sting investigation reporter Prabhat whose bad luck of failed operations may change, after he saves young girl named Mrignaina (played by Arya Banerjee) from committing suicide and gets to know that a pop singer Loki asks for sexual favors in return of featuring girls in his music videos. The two join hands to conduct a sting operation on Loki and hence its hidden cameras which is used throughout the segment.
Segment 2 is the best of the three segments as we the security cameras provide a depth in the field, allowing us to see a number of actions going on at a time, like when the customers at the store also become spectators to the action going on. The humor provided by the bumbling watchman relieves us from the yucky murder that we witness before. Another complaint I have with segment one is that the actors who play lead actors in Rahul’s film ‘act’ out the role far too much: it felt like their characters themselves knew they had to act badly, which isn’t the case with most C-grade films, where the funny part is that the actors don’t realize how actually awful they are. Dibakar could’ve used eyes as another ‘camera’ (basically a first person perspective) to capture those rare and genuine moments of unfiltered love, so that we could see a more explicit contrast between camera perspective and first-person perspective. But then, there are so many possibilities in film-making so my suggestion is only one of the many many possibilities which can be used in such films.
The characters are very engaging, but don’t expect any profound dialogs from the characters because they aren’t meant to be. They talk like most common youngsters talk in India, and they’re shallow in so many ways. But it is their shallowness, their misguidedness, their contemptible egos which interests Dibakar and inspires him, supports him in (am using this phrase again) driving its point home. My only advice: don’t watch the film expecting to be titillated, and do try figure out from your side what Dibakar’s trying to say. If you do try, you’ll end up learning or realizing a few things.