David is about the grey character inherent among us; how the good and the bad are just two different sides of each of us, and how good always wins over evil (more on this ahead).
David‘s scope is vast. Thematically connecting three (almost) independent stories is not something tried often in Hindi films. It’s almost like last year’s Cloud Atlas in that sense. And yet, it is bogged down by stereotyped characters, (especially in the case of the Goa-based segment), a weak third segment (again, the Goa-based) and an unconvincing link between all the three stories.
The story revolves around three men in different locations and era by the same name and how they defeat their Goliath. The first David (Neil Nitin Mukesh), in London, ekes out forgiveness and sacrifice from an enclosure of betrayal. The second David (Vinay Virmani), in Mumbai, wants his justice, but not in the non-violent manner about which his father (Nasser), a priest, preaches (and practises). The third David (Chiyaan Vikram), in Goa, is searching for love while taking a break from drinking and speaking to his dead father.
The first segment, shot entirely in black & white, is the film’s strongest. It hooks you in right from the first scene, and never lets you go. The second segment, though slightly uninteresting to begin with, gathers steam quickly. It also has the best scene of the film which involves David’s father injuring himself in delusion. The third segment shows a very politically incorrect character in David, and his first scene will send your senses tingling, telling you that something is wrong. It does pick up eventually, but this segment is tonally different from the rest and it affects the flow of the film. It plays lighter and in the manner of a fairy-tale. This also has one of the biggest disappointments with respect to sub-plots in its satku-Santa section.
The link towards the end is completely unnecessary, though it would be interesting to know why the writers (Bejoy Nambiar and Natasha Sehgal) decided to use it. Leaving character development to fate is fine as long as there is foreboding, and it works between the stories set in London and Mumbai, but the jarring returns when the Mumbai story connects to the Goan one.
The story also paints a very stereotypical picture of all characters. If the Goan David is always drinking, the Mumbai based David is playing guitar. Nambiar addresses a very political issue based on religion in the second segment, which does happen in real-life. But towards the end, one can’t help but feel that all three religions depicted in the film end up being depicted in one particular colour. Christians are white and make sacrifices. Hindus (black) are greedy while Muslims (black) want to avenge themselves and their loved ones. A straight line is drawn through complex issues with none of the sides appearing strong enough, so much that even a character who tells the Mumbai David to act on his words is in a kurta and has a jhola on his arms. No points for guessing which profession he is a part of. (No points for guessing his regionality too. Yes.)
The acting is strong throughout the film. The three leads perform to their best. Tabu (Goan David’s friend Frenny), Akarsh Khurana (London’s Iqbal Ghani) and Nasser support the cast brilliantly too.
Nambiar chose three different cinematographers for the three different locations, and it must be said that all three of them did a commendable job. Sanu John Varughese’s black and white palette lends a classic touch to the mafia tragedy in London, while R. Rathnavelu bathes Goa (and Kerala) with a soft orange tinge. P.S. Vinod is good with the Mumbai segment too but is overpowered by some impressive photography from the former duo. The editing by A. Sreekar Prasad plays fine too except while switching between segments where a certain jerk is always apparent.
The film is won, though, by two departments that are usually undermined in Hindi films. The production design by Rajeevan and costume design by Ameira Punvani are excellent and some of the best seen in recent times.
Nambiar takes ahead his theme of good triumphing over evil from Shaitan and multiplies it threefold. He does manage to stay in control of his cinematic techniques this time around, using them to create a desired effect, but make no mistake, the movie bleeds visual pleasure. There is, also, no doubt that, perhaps, after Kashyap and Bhardwaj, Nambiar is one director who knows how to use music in his films. It is harsh to say that Nambiar’s second film is ‘all style, no substance’. David has an interesting plot and a few colourful characters going for it. Nambiar knows to play subtle too. But there is no denying that although David is a good film, it could have been a whole lot better had the story been stronger.
Written by Runcil Rebello.