Love, Sex aur Dhoka

I watched Love, Sex aur Dhoka last night, a recently released Hindi movie dealing with themes of love and voyeurism. This movie combines three plots – the aspiring film student who shoots a movie somewhere in smalltown India and ends up eloping with his heroine, a store-owner who falls for an unassuming sales girl (after watching her repeatedly on CCTV) and a suicidal sting journalist who decides to expose an Indian hip hop star for his exploitation of a wannabe starlet.

I’m going to side-step any descriptions of the film as ‘experimental’, ‘edgy’ or asking provocative questions about voyeurism and simply say that this is hands-down the most disturbing Hindi film I have ever seen. Of course, I knew when I was watching this that I was not in for a Yash Chopra style love-fest but LSD was one of the bleakest movies I have seen in a long, long time. There are not really any likable characters here (and horrendous things happen to the vaguely pleasant ones, be warned). They all seem to have the emotional bankruptcy of characters in a J.M Coetzee novel and are powerless to stand up against events outside their control – or the darker currents within themselves. The film has some pretty graphic footage of violence, sex (nude parts blotted out) and suicide attempts – I think no more than serves the narrative purpose though. After one hour of entering the bleak world of Love, Sex aur Dhoka, I found myself wondering, do I buy these characters? Are people really this awful? And then I thought, yeah, sometimes they are. Which left me feeling rather depressed. (I might add that I had an invitation to go see the somewhat less emotionally taxing Avatar last night in Kathmandu, but am still out in The Field, holiday plans put on hold due to volcanic ash. I think that those idealistic blue people would have left me in better spirits, but ke garne?)

Where this film does stand out though is excellent acting – most notably from the female actors. This is something that LSD has in common with Dev D. Obvious as it may sound to say this, it is really good to watch a Hindi movie where actors are actually acting rather than just going through a series of set-pieces. Special mention goes to Neha Chaudan for her portrayal of under-confident storegirl Reshmi, particularly for her breakdown sequence. Camera technique is rough and jolting but the actors remain fully engaging even when you can only see the back of their head through a cctv-style angle.

This film left me feeling dejected and somewhat queasy. But if a film has that much of an effect on anyone then the director has to be doing something right.

Disclaimer: for those of you who are reading this and don’t know me very well, I am fine and am not *actually* emotionally traumatized. I am happily pottering around my house and making angrezi khanna rather than contemplating my shattered faith in humankind

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