Dev D keeps largely the aspect of Indian film as male centric film. We follow the wealthy protagonist Dev, who went to London for studies. He is in a long term relationship with his childhood love Paro. When he returns to Delhi he is portrayed as a westernized and grown up man, very obviously high on libido. Paro becomes the object of his sexual desires.
Paro on her turn is showing sexual desire for Dev very clearly, an example is the scene in that Paro is walks with a mattress towards a field, eager to make love with Dev. This seems to intimidate the ‘modern’ Dev, who has other notions of how women should sexualy behave. When he hears a rumour that Paro has slept with another man, which were not even true, he immediately believes them and rejects her (despite the conflicting fact that he slept with another girl before). Paro was always supposed to be his wife, but when Dev leaves her she marries a man chosen by her parents; an older and conservative man. Remarkable is that when Dev is lost in life, completely to alcohol and drugs, Paro is there to deliver service to him like a ‘good woman’. She shows love for him by taking care of him, but rejects his attempts to have sex.
The other main female character is Chanda. In the first part of the movie, it seems like Dev D is telling two separate stories. But even when her journey throughout Dev D is (largely) not explored in relation to male ‘hero’ Dev, she is still inferior and dependent on other male characters. At the beginning of the movie she is showing her sexual desires to her boyfriend when they are having sex. Her boyfriend, who she trusted, shares a sex video of her. Everybody in her surroundings have seen the MMS and seem to have enjoyed the women as a sexual object, but at the same time she got disowned by her family (her father even commits suicide) and by the whole society. This is showing in my opinion the contradictory and hypocrisy in Indian society concerning women and their sexuality. Finally she ends up as the ‘icon’ of a bad woman in Indian cinema, namely as a prostitute.
But in my opinion Chanda is not depicted as an ‘evil’ woman, rather as a strong and modern woman. She doesn’t seem to regret what she did, and is portrayed as a victim of the Indian society because she was showing her sexuality to her boyfriend. Even though she is a prostitute, Dev finally falls in love with her. The prostitute Chanda, in classic mainstream Indian cinema an object of male sexual desire, becomes the subject of love for Dev.
The movie is very interesting because it is full of contradictions in which gender roles in certain aspects are almost – in relation with the classic representations in Indian film – turned upside down. The main difference between the classic representation of women and their sexuality in mainstream Indian cinema and Dev D is that the two main female characters, Paro and Chanda, are expressing a natural sexual desire without being depicted within the classical dichotomy of a ‘good’ or ‘bad/evil’ character. Rather they are depicted as strong and modern women, out of the classical context of Indian mainstream cinema. Paro and Chanda both got punished throughout the movie for their sexual desires. Paro who showed her sexual desires to Dev is ending up with in an unhappy marriage. Chanda, who showed her sexual desires to her boyfriend, is rejected by society and ends up being a prostitute. Despite that Dev D has the characteristics of a male centric film as discussed before, we also follow the story from the point of view of the female characters. They are depicted in such a way that they evoke sympathy and empathy from the viewer. Therefore I see the representation of women and their sexuality in Dev D as a critic on the Indian society.
By Mark Kroon
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