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A fresh take on the original story

For filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, Daas Dev is entirely a different cup of tea. He presents the same characters of classic film Devdas in a new light.

Shoma A Chatterji |

The fascination for Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Devdas never seems to cease for filmmakers across language, culture, time and space. Thus, it should not be much of a surprise if an iconic filmmaker like Sudhir Mishra decides to contemporise the novel and place it against the backdrop of a globalised world filled with violence, one-upmanship, political back-stabbing and jugglery.

This version is called Daas Dev because it pushes the envelope of Chatterjee’s novel where he has changed the ideology of the original story. This, in fact, is the 17th celluloid interpretation of Devdas, produced by Sanjeev Kumar and Saptarishi Cinevision. The making of the film took nearly a year and a half and it was extensively shot across Lucknow, Ayodhya, Delhi and Mumbai.

Dev is played by Rahul Bhatt. His name in the film is Dev Pratap Chauhan, who belongs to the royal family. Along with him, Richa Chadda is portraying Paro.

“This is the most original Paro you will be seeing me portray in Daas Dev,” said Chadda, adding, “It is nothing even remotely similar to the original Paro of the story by Chatterjee.” Finally, Aditi Rao Hydari was chosen for the role of Chandramukhi.

About Chandra in Daas Dev, Hydari said, “My director Mishra believes in placing me in crazy situations. He did this with me for Yeh Saali Zindagi and he has done it again in Daas Dev.

I usually visualise from the script I am given how I can play a given scene. But he comes and puts me in a completely different situation and this is both challenging and exciting for any actor. I place myself in his hands when he is directing .”

Others in the cast include Saurabh Shukla, Vipin Sharma, Dalip Tahil, Anurag Kashyap, and Deepraj Rana. Bhatt, who plays the title role of Dev in the film, said, “I am a Kashmiri Pandit and my family is not even remotely related to films. I did some modelling assignments, a few good television serials, took a break and then stepped into films,”.

He got his break with Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly and later went on to work in Prakash Jha’s Gangajal followed by Abhishek Kapoor’s Fitoor. “I was thrilled when Mishra-ji decided to cast me in the title role.

Working under him was like I was trapped inside a box and the director released me from that box. It has been a great learning experience and I think I have been able to justify the faith he placed in me,” said Bhatt.

This film marks a distinct departure from his earlier films like Dharavi, Main Zinda Hoon, Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin and so on. His film Inkaar (2013) had an intriguing storyline about the truth behind many issues dealing with sexual harassment. But Daas Dev is entirely a different cup of tea.

Responding to what made him shift from his earlier oeuvre to a classical piece of literature which has been interpreted by several directors many a times, he says, “I am responding to the times. Remember that I am not the same person who made Dharavi. I know the boy who made Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin. But I do not analyse myself much. I respond to who I am at a given point of time and the story as well as the characters come naturally. The story tells me the way to tell it and I tell it like that. Besides, the world is changing and so am I. I am a scientist’s son and I am not caught within given stereotypes. Life moves beyond ideology and you should see where it goes and where it takes you.”

According to the director, Daas Dev is a film about people who endeavour to break free from their shackles and lead a life of individual freedom beyond the boxes in which they have been placed in.

“It is a common truth that we are not living in the best possible worlds and this applies as much to my other films like Inkaar, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi as it applies to Daas Dev. My problem as a filmmaker is just the same. I am trying to understand and cope with the world we are living in and where love is placed within that world. Love always gets thwarted in this world because it is structured within a kind of control and my film is a part of that journey — to find place for love within the manic obsessin for power.”

The music of the movie plays an integral role, adding on to the story and the characters in itself. Mishra has taken on five music directors and five lyricists for this film.

“I wanted each song to have a distinct personality. I liked a Punjabi sher. I have put that in the film. There is a poem by Muneer Nazi that becomes part of a ghazal in the film. All the songs are on the soundtrack.

Another song that goes “Sehmi hai dhadkan” is integral to the film’s theme. I worked with a new lyricist for the last song azaad kar. Another song “Aadhi roti” sung by Rekha Bharadwaj and composed by Sandesh Andhele is a folk song from UP originally sung by a folk singer Gaulb Bai. I have worked out an amalgamation of music and lyrics to take the story forward.”

This film is a very modern interpretation of the original story, portraying the characters in a different light. Dev, Paro and Chandramukhi are seen to have more to their personality than what was essentially mentioned. The main focus of the story is on how these characters face their lives and whether or not they are able to rise above their problems.

“My film narrates the story of Devdas in reverse where my protagonist, Dev, breaks free of his addiction for the bottle and gets trapped in the addiction of political power. Paro, too, refuses to remain imprisoned behind the big gate of her husband’s home. She decides to step into politics while Dev nourishes dynastic ambitions for his family. And Chandramukhi, Chandra in my film, is shown in a completely different light. She could be just any woman — a girl in love, a money handler, a fixer and a manipulator. Will these three men and women be able to rise above their hunger for power and liberate themselves from being a ‘Daas’ to power,” explains Mishra, a very unconventional filmmaker, who has left their footprints in the world of cinema through his spectacular films.

The first line of the brief synopsis states “power gets in the way of love.” Mishra adds on by saying that, “Dev, in my version, moves from an addiction of alcohol to an addiction of power! My film revolves around the lust for power and purity of love. Will Dev and Paro, who are caught in the addiction of power, overcome the lust for it and find love?”