Black Comedy is a farce that is played in the dark, as you know, with the lights full on. It's the Chinese convention of reversing light and dark, and exactly where anybody is at any given moment is the play.Adapting Devdas has been a thorough favourite with the filmmakers of our country. While pursuing an ardent research for this most of us will be able to decipher that it is not just popular with Hindi filmmakers but Devdas has also been taken up by Urdu, Malayali, Telegu, Tamil and even Assamese filmmakers of the past. Most of these adaptations might fall into different linguistic categories, but it is the genre (romance, drama) that binds them. However, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D takes a step forward and brings itself to a different genre, i.e. - Black comedy.
- Peter Shaffer
Wikipedia says – “Dev.D is a romantic black comedy.”
It is also not very easy for us to place this film in the black comedy genre so soon. As per my understanding of this, the film’s placement under this genre is simply because of the ease with which Anurag Kashyap has been able to portray grave and graver issues regarding gender stereotypes and male domination. This ease has allowed the makers as well as the viewers to comprehend the problems (if any) and issues in greater detail, without having to switch between temperaments. Through a delicate childhood romantic relationship between Dev and Paro to when they are in a long distance relationship, Kashyap has tried to put forward subtly how the ‘guy’ had the upper hand since childhood. He even mistook this superiority to prevail when he came back from London. This is where the tables turned and brought the newer side of the narrative – Leni or Chanda.
To analyse the change of events we must take their individual lives into consideration, for instance – Paro gets married to someone else, absolutely against her will. Post marriage she is shown to be a woman who values her own worth and hence refuses to physically involve herself with Dev every time. Leni courageously takes on her life and cuts through the thorny society that led her father to commit suicide and to flee from her own family. Leni ends up becoming a prostitute, she earns herself her livelihood and from that money pursues the further college education.
This film also does not follow the dichotomy of characters, that being – good bad and hero-villain in particular. All characters have good enough reasons to be the way they are. Like I’ve mentioned before that this film manages to help get rid of sex as a taboo in the society. However, ironically, it cannot help accept the expression of sexual desires by women.
Keeping this aside, if one judges the film on the basis of its loyalty towards the original text, one will find that at both times, with Paro and Leni he fails to trust them and ends up protecting his ego and letting the women of his life go. This is where the complexities and the misunderstandings have been faithfully taken from the old text. The original text ends on Dev’s death for which no one but the character Dev can be blamed. On the other hand, Dev.D manages to get a happy ending that succeeds in putting forward ideas that needed some knowing. This film was one of the first that could put through new opinions in the minds of the audience and nothing had to be compromised with. This is how this adaptation encourages vigorously the idea of ‘acceptance’, especially acceptance regarding a change. It increasingly became easier for the audiences to absorb this film because of its unusual cast, about whom the audience did not have any preconceived notions.
All in all, Dev.D being an adaptation of a classical text of the past, did not fail to disappoint the aspirations of a constantly altering society yet remaining faithful to an already written and appreciated work of words.
Written by Smita Ganguli
Aspiring cyber journalist but too damn opinionated.