Movie Review: David underwhelms but watch it for its style and storytelling
You should watch David for its style and its storytelling. For Tabu’s stellar performance, Neil Nitin Mukesh’s bearded handsomeness in a tux, gun in hand, and for rediscovering Tamil superstar Vikram.
by Ravina Rawal
It’s 1975. In grayscale London, gangster Iqbal Ghani’s right hand man and godson David (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is standing in the way of Indian officials trying to kill Ghani. When David’s father died in his childhood, Ghani took him under his wing and their loyalty towards each other has never been stronger.
As long as David is around, everybody knows Ghani can’t be touched. In which case, there’s nothing like exposing David to the hint of a possibly scandalous relationship between his mother and Ghani to poison his mind and make him question his loyalty. They strike a deal—if they are right about Ghani and David’s mother, David will kill his godfather himself. Standing in the shadows also waiting for David to take a stand is his secret lover Noor (Monica Dogra), who he still hasn’t officially committed to.
It’s 1999. Dreadlocked David (Vinay Virmani) is a struggling young musician in Mumbai, on the verge of his long-awaited big break. His struggles aren’t restricted to his guitar, though. He lives with his father, a peaceful Christian priest (Nasser) and two sisters in a teeny house, and times are tough financially. He isn’t religious himself, and somewhere resents his father for all that he represents, but his rebellion doesn’t really come in the way of him wanting to do all he can to help make ends meet—he has two sisters who he is very fond of and wants to see married and well settled.
Somewhere between restaurant gigs, guitar lessons and endless rounds of music studios, he finally lands his dream gig—a US tour with music producer Trilokji. Days before he is to leave, however, his unsuspecting father gets caught in the dirty politics of Hindu politician Malti Tai (Rohini Hattangady), who sends an agitated crowd of her supporters after the priest, accusing him of forcing people to convert to Christianity. The attack shatters the family, and a confused and angry David starts to demand answers about what happened and why they chose to make an example of his father.
It’s 2000. David (Vikram) has caught fish with his bare hands in Goa and is celebrating with a drink. Or 15. Through a funnel—because, you know, drinks are so much easier to mix directly in the mouth. But what’s a drunken celebration without a good old bar brawl? Remo Fernandes sits in the background belting out a lively mix of Maria Pitache, while David coolly breaks bottles on people’s heads, flings midgets out into the water, and punches a middle-aged woman who has the nerve to make fun of his situation.
His situation is, by the way, that his to-be wife left him at the altar years ago and he has stayed far away from women in general ever since. Heartbroken and drunk all the time, he spends his days in the company of his father’s spirited ghost (Saurabh Shukla), and his best friend and massage parlour owner Frenny (Tabu).
The endearing drunk has a new problem, though—he’s fallen hard for his best friend’s speech and hearing impaired fiancé, Roma (Isha Sharvani), and suspects she feels the same way. Should he let his best friend Peter marry this woman for a boat (the only reason Peter says he is marrying her), or should he step up and marry her for love?
It’s a tale of three cities. And of three people. In three different times. All they have in common till the last few scenes in the movies is that they’re all named David. And what they really have going for them is that writer-director Bejoy Nambiar is the one telling their stories. He sets them up beautifully, and visually the movie is stunning.
But something comes in the way of it being a riveting, emotionally engaging, gritty masterpiece—something we were hoping we could safely call Nambiar’s signature style after Shaitaan. He still handles everything unconventionally, the clichés are restricted to a bare minimum, he uses music beautifully, and the cinematography and direction is fantastic. Why, then, do you still leave the movie feeling underwhelmed?
The first half of the film takes its time to build on the three individual, unrelated stories. We allow this; we sit through it patiently, because we can’t wait to see how each David slays his personal Goliath, and how the three stories finally come together in the end. The common thread holding them together ends up being weaker than one would have liked, but we forgive it because we are open to Nambiar’s experiment of an episodic narrative, even if others aren’t ready for that kind of storytelling yet.
What we can’t forgive, however, is how the stories fail to take off in the same dramatic fashion that they have been set up. Neil Nitin Mukesh’s David isn’t strong enough to take any tough decisions. Vinay Virmani’s David tries very hard to be infuriated and outraged at how his father has been treated, but ends up looking irritated at best. Vikram’s David takes too long to act on things that really need his immediate attention—but considering this is the first we’ve seen of Nambiar’s efforts at comedy, we are actually pleased to report it a success.
You should still watch this film, though. For its style and its storytelling. For Tabu’s stellar performance, Neil Nitin Mukesh’s bearded handsomeness in a tux, gun in hand, and rediscovering Tamil superstar Vikram. For excellent editing, and an almost effortless switch between the three stories.
And to support Nambiar’s decision to use Indian indie artistes for the movie’s music, which deserves a special mention—we assume you’re already familiar with the gorgeous version of Mikey McCleary and Rekha Bhardwaj’s Dama Dam Mast Kalandar (everyone’s been raving about it for months), and we’ve already told you about Remo Fernandes’ upbeat Maria Pitache, but there’s also the sexy theme track, Ghum Huye composed by indie electronica act Bramfatura, written by Ankur Tewari and sung by progressive post-hardcore Goddess Gagged frontman Siddharth Basrur.
Also watch for Nikhil D’Souza’s soothing vocals in Out of Control, and Modern Mafia, who have been roped in to perform Bandhay written by Ankur Tewari. If Nambiar has sparked a trend (and we hope he has), this could be a very exciting time for independent music and the movies to come together in India.
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