Decoding 'David': The story of the father and son
I've forgiven Nambiar the excruciating run time of David for reviving the genre of the father and the prodigal son.
New Delhi: I'd forgive director Bejoy Nambiar most things, including three hours of a rambling story that stretches, yawns and winks at you, daring you to enjoy it at the pace it sets for you, or simply leave. In the end, I made my peace with 'David' - a story set in three time periods with protagonists who share a common name.
I've forgiven Nambiar, the architect of that deliciously dark film Shaitan, for the excruciating run time and the unnecessary diversions of David, for the simple reason that he salvages a genre that was once a prerequisite of most films shot in the 70s - that of the father and the prodigal son.
There are spoilers ahead, come back to this later if you haven't watched the film.
As you stumble through David's alcohol-induced stupor, you struggle to make sense of the sometimes prickly, often quirky and occasionally corrosive relationship between a father and his son and strangely it reminds you a bit of 'The Road to Perdition' and 'Godfather'.
David, with its yellow and purple tinted beaches of Goa of 2010, rain-swept Mumbai of 1999 and the monochromatic London of 1975, is a story of retribution, longing and seeking answers. The restlessness of its three main leads as they smash, strum and shoot through life, begin to reflect on you.
There is something about dynastic cinema that has an old world appeal. Most memorable films that explored the father-son relationship belong to an era of ballrooms, cigars and fedoras. Be it Amitabh Bachchan, as the rich son of a ruthless businessman in Namak Haraam, Dustin Hoffman as the father caught in a custody battle in Kramer vs Kramer or Al Pacino as Michael Corleone - this is a genre that has immense potential if done right. And Nambiar gets it right.
One of the three stories is that of Neil Nitin Mukesh (David), who works for mafia boss Iqbal Ghani in 1975. Haunted by a past he has no recollection or knowledge of, David is indebted to the man who raised him as his own. Yet this is the same man he would have to betray some day. This is the most unsettling of the three stories and yet this is the story that leaves you frustrated.
There are some fabulous moments between Mukesh and Akarsh Khurana, who, incidentally has co-written David with Nambiar.
As he tries to find out what his mother's relationship was with his adoptive father, David deals with personal loss and heartbreak. I should add, Monica Dogra (of Dhobi Ghat fame) has some fine scenes as Mukesh's lover.
I don't know what prompted Nambiar to cast Vinay Virmani as the youngest David of the three, but he's a gem of a find. Virmani is David of 1999 Mumbai and is a musician who struggles to adjust to the austere life his father, a Christian priest, has set for him and his two sisters. When a mob led by Hindu right wingers blacken his father's face with ink, accusing him of forced religious conversion, the naive and self-centred David is forced to confront the bitter reality of living as a religious minority in a secular country.
As the boy becomes a man and roles reverse, the entrenched defiance softens into something conventional. How he makes his peace with his religion and thereby with the man who taught him the principles he never thought he had, forms the crux of a riveting story.
The weakest of the three stories is perhaps the one that stars Vikram, a weather-beaten fisherman in 2010 Goa who falls hopelessly in love with his best friend's fiance. As he drinks himself silly each day and night, the gruff seafarer finds solace in opening up to his dead father - a hilarious Saurabh Shukla - who guides him on matter of the heart. The story takes needless diversions and introduces characters that Nambiar does not do justice to, but in the end, it sticks to the guiding principle of the three men - sometimes doing the wrong is the right thing.