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I have followed Bejoy Nambiar since his days on a reality show on Sony Pix -- a show which he went on to win. Returning with his sophomore feature film, David tells the story of two people living in different time periods but share the same name. Does he deliver this time?
Vikram's David is a fisherman by profession and a drunkard by choice. He gets into bar brawls which are complete with guitarists playing a Goan jingle in the background - reminiscent of scenes you are likely to find in a Mexican Western starring Antonia Banderas. When he is drunk (which is all the time) he sees his dead Father's happy spirit possessing random people to have a drink with David. After his bride ran away at the altar, he has never fallen in love again. On top of everything, he has a bizarre secret identity. As if he didn't have enough problems on his plate, he goes ahead and falls in love with his best friend's fiancee.
Jiiva's David is a guitarist looking for that one big break which will change his fortunes. Living with his devout priest Father (Nasser) and two sisters in a Bandra suburb, his life takes a turn for worse after an incident where someone close to him gets used as a pawn in a larger political game.
One of the film's biggest problems is the jarring imbalance in tone as we alternate between a lighthearted love story and contrasting, darker companion which is laced with politics and societal inequality. Since the life story of one David is clearly superior and interesting than that of the other, the film loses its good work done every time the other story starts.
With David, Nambiar has given us a visually striking film which is a little too conventional in its storytelling, coming from someone like him -- someone I expected a lot more from. His taste in music and aesthetic visual choices are awe inspiring (remember 'Khoya Khoya Chaand' from Shaitan?), but what he does with these devices at his disposal is what I am concerned about. I keep thinking how he's the Indian equivalent of Zack Snyder. There's this scene where a dazed Jiiva beats up a few goons in rain as Manamey plays in the background.. it is absolutely stunning. Jaw-dropping beauty. In another instance, the film's theme Vaazhkaiye is used to perfection to create the right atmosphere. But such moments are few and far.
I don't know if the women in Nambiar's world were too strange for the general Tamil audience, but the kind of chauvinistic comments I heard in the theater today made me throw up a bit in my mouth. On Jiiva's side we have his sister who smokes and a widowed lady who is caring towards him when he's in need. On Vikram's side, there's a deaf and mute girl whose display of affection is misconstrued by David himself. Then there's his friend and closest confidante Frenny who runs a massage parlor, and is happily married with a kid. Because of the film's non judgmental stance, I am glad that it exists. I don't know how long it will take to change the perception of people but this is a step in the right direction.
I am not very hopeful of the film's chances of doing good business. Not because the film is too radical or unapproachable (it is not), but because of its not so tight writing and predictability. It's a film which puts all its cards on the table very quickly, and a after a point, the outcome becomes inconsequential to us. The film finds a way of connecting its two stories, but very loosely and without a compelling reason.
Throughout the film, I kept wishing I was watching the Hindi version. It is clear beyond a speck of doubt that the film is meant to be seen in that language. No matter how much it tries to pass itself as a Tamil film, it continues to remain an awkwardly dubbed film which was hastily put together. It is not just about everyone speaking a language of a land far away; it's the politics itself. When you look at the scene of a political rally, it's stylization makes you wonder if it is set in Nambiar's alternate reality even.
The Neil Nitin Mukesh portion which takes places in the 70s may be too alien to relate to for the Tamil audience. But without it, the film is never quite able to compensate. And since I knew that there exists a version of the film the way it was originally written, it became even harder to shake off the feeling that a huge chunk of the film was missing. David IS meant to be seen in Hindi. Even if that version is not as good as this, it would still be a failure of an ambitious vision- opposed to something like this which feels like a compromise from the word go.
David is entertaining in parts but suffers due to tonal imbalance. I strongly feel that if you must watch it, may it be in Hindi.