There is no love in any quickly-digestible packages, little on-screen sex, and a whole lot of dhokha in Dibakar Banerjee third and most tricky film. Tricky, because the characters are constantly talking and living their lives on camera. We see them as they are, stripped of all vanity, ridiculously self-serving but still capable of bouts of guilt and caring.
Love Sex Aur Dhokha is a mirror-image, and more, of a world that has made up its mind to sell its heart and most of its soul to the camera. There are three stories in the film rolled together less by design than chance. Unlike other episodic films this one doesn’t flirt with finesse. Instead, Banerjee fornicates with ferocious realism born out of a desperate generation’s craving to make a place in a society that recognizes you for your financial rather than emotional or intellectual prosperity.
The first story entitled Superhit Pyar hits you in the solar-plexus when the father of the rich girl Shruti (Shruti) and her newly-married husband Rahul (Anshuman Jha) are taken to a desolate highway and hacked to pieces. This is after we see Rahul the director making a film with Shruti in the lead that looks a Bhojpuri version of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Love doesn’t just hurt, it hacks.
Nothing that has come before prepares us for the savagery of the dying moments. Banerjee’s narrative is relentless in its pursuit of a cinematic language that comes closest the unalloyed colloquialisms of every-day life. These are character you’ve probably seen melt in the melee of the humdrum. Nikos Andritsakis’ cinematography picks out these characters from their allotted anonymity to place them in positions that are always compromising, sometimes poignant and funny but brutally honest. It couldn’t have been easy for the cinematographer to deliberately distort the images on screen as per the camera-recordings of the characters. Imperfection in this case, is a given. Distortion a demand of destiny.
The spoofy spirit of the pre-climactic segment of the first story Superhit Pyar shifts gears in the second story Paap Ki Dukaan where a desperate social climber ironically named Adarsh (Raj Kumar Yadav) lures an innocent salesgirl in a supermarket Rashmi (Neha Chauhan) into the backroom for some MMS sex.
Significantly, the man who wants to make money out of on-camera sex is half in love with the clueless girl and is tempted to switch off the camera when he finally gets to the sex.
But the conscience can go to hell. It will find plenty of company there. The third and by far the most well-rounded and incisive story Badnaam Shohrat finally throws forward a conscientious protagonist. The growing fondness between the closet-idealist of a journalist Prabhat (Amit Sial) and the miserably unhappy item girl Naina (Arya Devdutta) is a savage indictment of ‘news’ as we see it today on television. Go take a bite of this sound byte.
The grotesquely caricatural pop singer Loki Local (Herry Tengri) in the third story is a savagely satirical symptom of a sick society looking for instant gratification.
It isn’t as if every moment in this tightly packed sardine-can of excitable emotions is savage, brutal and aggressive. The sensitive moments just creep up on the creepy moments nourishing, bathing and mollifying the savage exterior of a world gone ruthlessly and desperately selfish and immoral.
Dibakar Banerjee’s creates a digital world resorting to desperate measures. His characters are ordinary people extraordinarily challenged by the sheer obligation of day-to-day living. While these characters—social ‘mess’-fits symptomatic of a new materialistic ‘muddle’ class—record, all their moves and action on self-operated cameras (shaky, hazy, lazy and sometime crazy but always a window to their souls) the director records their stories without overt cinematic interventions.
This is where the film’s main problems prop up. The director vision is so unified to the way the characters see themselves that a section of the audience may feel it’s watching a hugely self-indulgent work that wants to keep the ‘cinema’ out of cinema.
The material binding the three stories is edited like a home video where the relevance of the characters depends on our off-camera familiarity with them. The people in Love Sex Aur Dhokha need no introduction or back-projection. They are who they are, without the participation of cinematic devices. Banerjee almost sneaks in on these people to violate their non-privatized lives.
The characters’ personal spaces are already violated by self-deployed cameras. Dibakar Banerjee doesn’t act the voyeuristic director even when the girl in the supermarket is on the ground making love with the desperate guy who has spent all his time and effort to get her there.
Why is there no triumph in his love-making? Love Sex Aur Dhokha is not a film about celebrating the end of an individual’s right to privacy. It’s a rigorously recorded pseudo-documentary about people who have thrown all caution and discretion to the winds because they’ve no choice.
The film never belittles or sentimentalizes the characters’ lack of choices. While inventing a unique format of cinematic expression, Dibakar Banerjee has not emotionally emasculated the characters. Even when they’re doing it for a camera their emotions are not out of our range of vision.
In terms of technique this film gets as rough and jolting as any film can. The actors look like reality-show rejects making a last-bid attempt to prove their worth.
They got the point. This is a film that has no-reference point. Except the people we see all around us.