Monday, March 09, 2009

The Sluts meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

"Everything is true, only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned." – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Works with obvious meanings cease to be art” – Edgar Allan Poe

Yet again. It was a coincidence that I read “Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” after the previous post.
And also I had forgotten to talk something about Dev D which had confused me. I was praising it too much and was very much in love with Chanda / Leni. What I didn’t understand back then was what role did sex play in the story? And peculiarly towards the end I thought how can dev fall out of love from paro? Or accept to himself that he never did. Because I believe when you think you are in love with someone or are infatuated with someone and ask yourself “is it real? Do I really love him/her”, you feel guilty. You cannot give it up. I may be wrong. But I said there are two separate things here, dev realizes –
1. I don’t love her
2. I m wasting my life / money

Both can’t come simultaneously.
I got my answerers, I remembered that there is a scene when both Dev & Chanda are in towels while C talks about her past and gets support from D. I interpret sex is there for the namesake, and the towels are its evidence yet there is no more allusion to it. Just one more; where after a disagreement C shuts the door on D saying “Goodnight!”(keeping him away for the night) In the span of less than 8 minutes I suppose AK has depicted lot of things in a subtle way which I think was too subtle. D makes an inquiry into C’s life(her past hurt and how she came to be a prostitute). D sympathizes with C. C falls in love with D. C realizes D is beyond repair. D holds the ring(meant for Paro) in a wonder. Now this is a turning point because this is where he asks the question to himself about which I talked earlier “Do I really love paro?” Yet it lasts very few seconds, hence I think it was too subtle. I guess a little projection would have helped. After that I am not sure what happened, D left, which is a dialog less part between D and C. Please go see.
This style of a narrative heavily dependent on dialog less performances and music has been challenging and sometimes its impossible to know what’s really going on. So it has taken more than few views of the movie for me to write this.
Ok, but that’s not my point. Since I realized sex has been relegated to background, then what’s in the foreground? And a subtle fabric, something I had never experienced, revealed. All along that I had been drooling over the smile of C, her “Tum boss ho” and “ye tum mere liye laye the na?” Oh! It had been sitting in front of my eyes.

C is a prostitute, sex is her job. She falls in love with D. she finally unloads burdens of past and showers love.
P a village girl is the childhood sweetheart of D. Guess what, she has carnal cravings. She is boisterous.
As it turns out, the perceived images of C and P have been reversed. Nothing is what it seems. We would like to see paro in the age old mask of a coochie-cooing cutie pie whose love flourishes in the hills of Switzerland when two flowers kiss each others’ petals. Or better still she will dance with a diya in the longing for love. No touchin no nothing.
No wonder Dev D is gaining popularity from ladies; in the theater there was a row full of women next to me, all working in same company maybe.
After P washes clothes and cleans room for D, few minutes later you see C caressing his hair and taking his shoes off. More an image of “Dev” of both women, I don’t think he ever was “Das” to either women (I change my stance from the previous post). I said that the clothes washing scene between P n D is terrific because she calls him, she comes to the dingy hotel, she cleans for him. She really loved him; those were the last gestures of love for him until she pushed him away and moved on. Dev doesn’t look keen as she calls him. And the twisted logic of this dialogue should make the audience doubt the authenticity of Dev’s love –
P: “ye kya haal bana rakha hai, nahaye kabse nahin?” (Since when have you not taken bath?)
D:“Bahut pyaar karta hun tumse” (I love you a lot)
But that’s how we sluts do stuff, not so twisted in our minds. “I made a wreck of myself in your love!...Or for that matter because of any other injustice that happened to me.”
Because what is visible is opposite to what he is saying. This contradiction of what seems and what really is has been brought out by AK and it seems its been million years since something like this tried to adorn 70 mm in India. This is the point at which I find Jekyll and Hyde and dev d similar.

All this I brought together after I read TSC of Dr.J & Mr. H. The whole conversation of identity and struggle is beautiful. Thanks to Dr. Jekyll’s narrative and mulling over it the above interpretation of Dev D was churned out.

What made me love the novella was something different than the split persona. . An eerie feeling was gripping me. There were scarcely any female characters, only two women that too in servant roles. Looking back the image of a hypocrite housemaid secretly celebrating the news that her master Hyde is police’s suspect freaks me out.
Middle aged men spending lonely evenings. Its even more eerie if they spend their life like this without complaints. And on the penultimate page, he talks about growing up holding his father’s finger. That clinched it. I was speechless. This can’t be just a matter of chance. And I firmly believe this is an allegory for homosexuality. By not mentioning particular evil deeds of Hyde, its wide open for interpretation.
Quite frankly it disappointed me a bit to find out nothing in there, in the evil of Hyde. The reason for a murder he committed isn’t even clear. That probably is such an arbitrary event to shape the story, which disappoints me.
But it being the first literary feat popularizing multiple personality (and me being the zillionth person to interpret this allegory) I guess its laudable for the beauty of the prose. Thanks to which I get Goosebumps thinking of a dank and gloomy world devoid of any women where two middle aged fellows go for a stroll down a decrepit street; just as much as it makes me delighted to see a movie like Dev D which is also multi layered and poetic and has gained success from the masses.

PS: I respect films like American Beauty and Taxi Driver more than Dev D, then how come I never got to talking about them? Maybe it’s overwhelming. Just to begin would have me embarking on a project or something. I also feel like a small truant, throwing labels at them, they are sacred. Maybe some day.

PPS: I asked AK on his blog a question and he replied! In the last bar from where Dev gets kicked out, the protagonist of Gulaal, AK’s next film, was sitting in front of Dev. AK confirmed my hunch. Scroll down for comment no. 140. :D My first communication with a celebrity! Yippie!

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