Dev movie review: Lost in translation

We are a generation stuck between two worlds. Products of broken relationships and with sacks of emotional baggage, we actively try to lose ourselves in the swirling, chaotic high of casual dating. However, a significant portion of us longs for a connection, for something more. We are a group that desires forever (maybe not candidly, all the time) but at the same, is terrifyingly scared of the same. In its heart, it is this conflict that Dev wishes to tackle. Meghna (Rakul Preet) is a young, successful self-made entrepreneur. Ideally, the film should have been about Meghna overcoming her insecurity and fear. But as the title succinctly suggests, it is not.

Now, I wouldn’t have minded that had I understood Dev Ramalingam (Karthi) more. An optimist, adventure freak, impulsive but mature — Dev is introduced to us as the perfect amounts of fun and sensibility. He is quick to reprimand his friend Vignesh (RJ Vignesh) for an inappropriate comment but doesn’t think twice before stalking a woman. While a Facebook request and even a follow-up message are understandable. How is following her around, in any way, acceptable? I would still have been okay if Dev had been reprimanded. Then, it becomes representation vs glorification. Instead, he gets away saying the intention wasn’t to ‘stalk or disturb’ her. To Dev’s credit, he does back off after he gets a clear no from Meghna. But instead of asking Meghna to be careful, her mother Padmavathy (Ramya Krishnan), says “Andha paiyana patha thappa therla.” Somehow, everything becomes instantly okay because Dev is the rich, good-looking, protagonist?

The film is an uneven mixture of old things in new packages. Dev decides to give dating a try because ‘love is an adventure’. He believes there is more to dating than casual intercourse. Fair enough. But all it takes is just a photograph of Meghna, to convince him that she is the one. Later, he justifies it by saying he saw ‘something in her eyes’. It feels unconvincing. Meghna’s reaction to this is more natural. She likes him but is wary of being vulnerable. She tests and taunts him, to see if it is for real. However, when Meghna’s insecurity leads to obsession, it becomes unpalatable; a throwback of sorts to the clingy heroine template. Definitely, not the progressive heroine I was hoping for.

Even with all this, I would have liked Dev much more had it stuck to the trials and tribulations of love. There are some lovely exchanges that come as a breath of fresh air. Meghna says it is impossible to win with Dev and he nonchalantly says, “Jeikanuma, naa thothudaren. Nee thana, unkita enna?”. Dev is ready to move countries for Meghna. Padmavathy apologises for the trauma her problematic relationship inflicts on Meghna. Vignesh, on more than one occasion, speaks out on the several tropes of being ‘the hero’s friend in a film’: “everyone is so used to calling me as Dev’s friend, that they don’t remember my name.” or “You have me around, so that you look better, don’t you? It isn’t every day you see such conversations and the film needed more of these. Instead, it detours into unnecessary fights which seem like afterthoughts, purely for Karthi flex his action muscles. There’s an outrageous sequence involving a journalist and a scoop that even the charming Karthi couldn’t save. There is a thread about good parenting that I am not sure who it is aimed at; And in general, we are prescribed to an overdose of sentiment. To top all this, we have an over-enthusiastic Harris Jayaraj instructing us what to feel with each scene.

I wonder if naming the female lead, Meghna was a coincidence because, Dev, in more than one instance, reminded me of Varanam Ayiram. In a way, both follow the stories of the male leads that take fantastical turns. And much similar to Varanam Ayiram, I wish the film hadn’t stretched itself thin by taking on too much.

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