Having been let down by women, two egoist and patriarchal characters go down the path of self-destruction, although one is heroic the other is not.
In a contemporary urban location, there is a rich egoist male who falls in love- this is a very common heroic pursuit in mainstream Bollywood, and the 2009 Anurag Kashyap (who has a certain Samuel Fuller and Aronofsky vibe to him) directed the movie Dev.D, and took on this trait to reveal very ironically how flawed a hero can be.
Adapted from Sarat Chandra’s Devdas, this movie is a romantic black comedy musical, with more preference to music than dialogues. Music by Amit Trivedi fits perfectly with the scenes in the movie.
Dev is a chauvinist who took his childhood love Paro for granted, at one time slapped and embarrassed her, and thought that he actually loved her. He also once believed that she would be the only woman he’d ever love- again a common narrative that there’s just ‘the one’ and no one else.
Dev later realises that his love was flawed, he was flawed, and Paro never returns back to him. It’s not just the utter vulnerability in Dev’s character, but a fresh empowering effervescence of strong female characters which makes the film stand out.
A decade later, comes the movie that proves we are back to square one. Sandeep Vanga directed Kabir Singh which is a remake of Telugu film Arjun Reddy is a story about an egoist, entitled, chauvinist with anger issues who falls in love. The sound track went popular and so did the problematic aspects wrapped up nicely as the charisma of Kabir Singh. As a promoter of independent cinema, and appraiser of a film like Dev.D, I would never object to the portrayal of a problematic character like Kabir Singh who is after all, inspired from our society. An added bonus with Kabir Singh was that it was made with intention to appropriate his flaws and was received largely in the same horizon.
In my personal opinion, I feel that Kabir Singh did teach us a thing or two. It validated that the popular opinion still is to plaudit the hero with underlying misogyny and the success of such a film is representative in the profits it made. Also for all the wrong reasons, it did start a big discussion on male chauvinism. There’s a parallel in the society itself which is depictive of the two kinds of films discussed above, and the popularity and financial success of such movies will always reflect the popular status quo of us as a society.
Feature Image Credits: Filmistaan