I wasn’t overly impressed with Shaitan though Bejoy Nambiar’s framing of shots was a joy to be sucked into. I felt so mostly because Nambiar made a film about something that Anurag Kashyap had already done, quite sometime ago and very well at that. It was called Paanch.
But David is a different beast. Not flawless or genius but the technical brilliance is more willingly married to the scale of the subject and characters. The story of three Davids – one in London, one in Mumbai and the third in Goa are entirely different from each other but the central conflict in each is much the same. It boils down to the choices each of the eponymous characters makes and what bearing it has on the people around them. As expected, the film is visually stunning. Every frame, every shot is so carefully and lovingly constructed. There isn’t a thing that’s extra on the frame or standing out in a scene. It is slick and beautiful but where David wins for the most part is that it also has a heart. Maybe not three but it definitely has one. Or two.
The obvious winner here is David (Neil Nitin Mukesh) in 1975 London. The setting rendered in black and white is most greyish in character and feeds off the skills of Nambiar that seem just made to order for this noir-esque Godfather with bits of Miller’s Crossing thrown in. The scene with the David and Goliath wrestling bout as a backdrop for this David turning tables was a masterstroke. Neil Nitin Mukesh is good but this demanded someone with more screen presence and it helped a huge deal that this third of the lot was arresting despite it. But that’s where you needed someone of the stature of Vikram (in 2010 Goa). That’s commanding performance and commanding screen presence. Vikram here gets a very Vikram role. He has a typical introduction that harks back to his introduction in Saamy. This is home for Vikram, and if you are going to make this guy an unapologetic inebriated loverboy, like Nambiar does here, he would still make it his home. That’s what happens and even in a nothing plot – who cares about plot anyway – with great performances (Saurabh Shukla, Tabu) and superbly queer characters, you can still come away with a compelling effort. David, drunk on alcohol and drowned in love, rowing along with Roma in the dead of the night and having hallucinations was as joyful as it can get. A standout shot in a sequence full of standout shots.
The David in between (set in 1999 Mumbai) is probably the relative weak link of the story with nothing going for it, not even a performance worthy of mention and is quite bland throughout. It exists as if to solely tie in the elder David to the youngest to satisfy the nonexistent portmanteau constraints of the film. It is baffling that in the Tamil version, they chose to do away completely with the Neil Nitin Mukesh story and kept this one with Jiiva in the role. Quite a suicide act though I haven’t watched the Tamil one.
David is a solid sophomore feature from Bejoy Nambiar. Now that he’s finding stories to combine with his brilliant aesthetic sense, here’s to looking forward to more. Watch and watch out.