Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Arya Banerjee, Neha Chauhan, Anshuman Jha, Atul Mongia and Shruti
Dibakar Banerjee's Love, Sex aur Dhokha is the most riveting Hindi film in recent memory. It's one of those films that grab your attention the moment you've settled into your seat, and it doesn't let go till the very end. It's provocative, it's unsettling and occasionally disturbing too. But not for one minute in its roughly 108-minute running time does it allow you to so much as tilt your head down to look at your watch or your mobile phone.
Comprising three separate stories, one each on love, sex and betrayal -- although all three stories have elements of each theme -- the film is constructed as if using third-party footage. Hand-held camera footage filmed by a wannabe director, CCTV footage obtained from a local supermarket, and spy-cam footage shot by an enthusiastic reporter. Expectedly then, much of what you see on screen is grainy, jerky and not always in focus. But even as you adjust yourself to become comfortable with the unusual technical challenges, you're sucked into the film's shocking drama and into the lives of its desperate characters.
It's hard to go into the individual stories without ruining the experience for you, so all I can say is that they're unpredictable tales and they're interlinked with each other.
The film's director Dibakar Banerjee knows his characters inside out and understands their motivations clearly. The young girl excited about an offer to star in a classmate's student film, yet petrified of her domineering father's reaction. The supermarket supervisor who coldly betrays a girl he has genuine feelings for. The dancer who finally figures out how to get what she wants from the pop star who exploited her. These are characters not hard to recognise or relate with, and Bannerjee casts an ensemble of new actors to fill out these parts, empowering them with spontaneous, un-showy dialogue that crackles with authenticity.
Like the young sardar hero who falls for a greeting card-store employee in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Banerjee creates memorable characters who stay with you. My own personal favourites in this film include the excited student filmmaker inspired by his 'Adi sir', and the catty supermarket salesgirl who works day shifts.
In the end, Love, Sex aur Dhokha is consistently gripping, although the third story strikes me as a tad contrived.
You will be shocked, you will be startled, but walking out of the theatre, you know you have just seen what is possibly the most important Hindi film since Satya and Dil Chahta Hai. Not only does it redefine the concept of "realistic cinema", it opens a world of possibilities in terms of how you can shoot films now.
They did it in America already with films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. If nothing else, at least we can expect more aspirants will be encouraged to pull out their handi-cams and go out and shoot those odd, quirky films that no big producer is giving them crores of rupees to make.
I'm going with four out of five and two big thumbs up for director Dibakar Banerjee's Love, Sex aur Dhokha. It's the kind of film you'll be talking about for weeks.