Devi Aur Hero
It is still a Tuesday and I have finished watching the new Hindi film Devi Aur Hero which is streaming for free on the director Aditya Kripalani’s site. We at Popcorn Reviewss have always been inclined towards giving a voice to independent filmmakers and just contributing a little speck in spreading the word about their work. We have been practicing this time and again and doing our bit to give back to the fraternity. This is just our little way of saying thank you for the love and accolades that we have been getting from the fraternity. Please note that this is NOT A PAID REVIEW(like always).
It was recently that I did come across an FB post about Aditya Kripalani’s latest film and how no OTT was ready to purchase and release it on their platforms. His previous two works did find takers and were immensely appreciated, however that was probably the onset of OTT culture in India where even the authorities were not sure of what would work and what wouldn’t. But with the amount of content these days, it is the most important to keep backing independent filmmakers who are willing to risk everything in order to tell a simple tale. OTT platforms are you listening?? So when Aditya did decide to release the film on his own website, I was all in and wanted to know what it had to offer. As always, I did go into the film blind, not knowing what to expect. So then does Devi Aur Hero manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Devi Aur Hero follows the story of two very complex characters – one a s*x addict(censoring the word to beat the google algorithm) who is undergoing rehab and the other a s*x slave who after years of assault has become delusional and suffering from multiple personality disorders. Would they find their freedom in the chaos of the city of Mumbai? The story here is very different with mythological references thrown in intelligently within the screenplay. Standing at a shade under 2 hours, the screenplay here(divided in chapters) is edgy and discomforting yet profound and unique in many ways.
The first thing that I did notice about the drama was the dynamics of the two protagonists. In the country where we live in, women are looked upon as objects of desire. Such has been a mindset that the boys are almost taught to chase girls which in turn has unwanted repercussions in our society. One such aspect of it is the mad obsession of s*x and intimacy that does send so many men down the rabbit hole. This feature is highlighted for the male protagonist who is suffering from his own demons, something which is established within the first 5 minutes. On the other hand, it is the female protagonist who has been suffering from a delusion after years of assault which is a byproduct of the desire that she has been objectified to. So the two contrasting emotions arising from the same germ is uniquely showcased here.
The conflict in the story arises out of the fact that can these two very similar yet contrasting emotions help curb one another and in turn help the two individuals evolve. The proceedings are delicately handled and with a lot of sensitivity. The setting of Mumbai was a good creative choice as well, as it did add a layer of chaos to the proceedings. Every now and then, the writers do well in linking the proceedings to mythology but within the modern day setup. For instance, the protagonist is aptly named Kaali who is symbolic for the Goddess of destruction, but also a symbol of Mother Nature who has suffered years of abuse. In a brilliant compilation of scenes, Kaali adds an ‘i’ on the name board which then reads ‘Saraswati’, the Goddess of Wisdom(symbolic of the protagonist Vikrant Saraswat), something that the male protagonist who is a psychiatrist himself, has been doing in imparting his knowledge and trying to help Kaali, despite facing his own demons.
This is a discomforting watch in more ways than one. The vulnerability of both the mentally disturbed characters is showcased accurately. Kaali especially is shown to take baby steps in trusting someone new in her life despite a traumatic past, symbolizing a sense of hope within her. Yet, such is the world that that ‘hope’ is short-lived. On the other hand, this is in many ways a journey of self realisation for Vikrant as well. In a moving scene where he does let his desires momentarily have the better of him, only to witness a remorseful picture(watch the film and you will know) in front of him, did make for a stunning impact, not only for his character but also the viewers in general. This leads up to the final act which is where all hell breaks loose in a drama which is symbolic in many ways yet very well written.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational yet quite profound in many ways. The lines are a catalyst in bringing the two world together that does make for a captivating impact on the viewer as well. The music is good and goes perfectly with the mood of the drama. The BGM is raw and deliberately done to bring out the inner turmoil of the characters and it is quite good as well. The cinematography did have a layer of edginess to it that did result in a stunning spectacle. Director Aditya Kripalani handles the subject in a delicate manner yet is unabashed and unapologetic in his approach. His ‘no holds bar’ approach lead to an engaging and engrossing watch with a potential to stun the viewers every now and then.
The performances are stunningly brilliant here. Ahmareen Anjum and Vibhawari Deshpande have sparkling cameos here. The former is a reflection of the class divide and privy to the patriarchy in the society. The latter has a stunning exchange with the protagonist which has a nice little meta reference to it(no spoilers here). Vinay Sharma as Vikrant does an incredible job in a character that is nuanced and textured. His vulnerabilities are on full display here that does make for a stunning character study. But it is Chitrangada Satarupa who as Kaali does a magnificent job. There were layers within layers to this incredibly well written character and performed with absolute perfection. The emotions which she does manage to bring to the table are wonderful in this towering performance of hers. This is one character that does stay with you long after the film has ended.
Devi Aur Hero is a discomforting drama with brilliant performances that comes with my highest recommendation. Available for free on Aditya Kripalani’s site!