When a film titled Love, Sex aur Dhoka (LSD) opens with a kitschy ode to “Adi sir” (Aditya Chopra) and his pièce de résistance, the evergreen Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the director is explicitly stating what his film is not. It’s a stunt, in a way—to jolt viewers, already perhaps expecting the non-Bollywood, headlong into his film; and to say, “It’s not the love that you like watching”.
I was put off by the gimmicky beginning.
But as the story unfolded—a young film student trying to replicate the story of “Raj and Simran”, and falling in love with the demure, middle-class girl who plays the role of Simran—I was unconcerned with the mainstream-lampooning subtext. The story was lifelike in its tenderness. I was enraptured.
Stylish: LSD has been shot in a digital format
There are three different stories in Dibakar Banerjee’s third feature film LSD, each connected to the other in some way. The second is about a girl who works as a salesgirl in a department store somewhere in a B town, the subject of a sexually explicit MMS scandal that explodes in the virtual world. Banerjee is concerned with what led to its filming. In the third story, a sting journalist at the fag end of his career teams up with an aspiring music video star to pull off a sleazy, potentially TRP-pushing sting operation.
Banerjee has shot the film in the digital format—no other format could have created its look. He simulates the clumsiness of a surveillance camera or a camcorder, crucial to the film’s impact. Every conversation and every scene is dependent on where the camera is placed—it’s never one character’s point of view, but the sweeping eyes of the camera, which records lives threadbare. For example, there’s a sequence in the story of the salesgirl where she breaks down into hysterical tears because of a personal loss in front of the guy who is trying to dupe her. It’s an unsettling scene, filmed entirely with the girl’s back to the camera. You don’t get to see her face, but you sympathize with her and are also alarmed at the thought that the worst is yet to come. LSD works like a thriller—till the end, you’re wondering what’s next.
Despite the shoddy look, LSD is a stylish film. The camera’s placement is deliberately random—Banerjee knows exactly where to place it and why. In this sense, LSD is reminiscent of some of Steven Soderbergh’s films (The Girlfriend Experience; Schizopolis; Traffic; Sex, Lies and Videotape), but the similarity ends there. Banerjee’s screenplay (co-written by Kanu Behl) is loaded with the sleaze, taboos, frustrations and paranoia of middle India. He enters right into its private cauldron.
It’s a disturbing world, one that you can’t help being stung by. There’s one scene where two guys are talking about the salesgirl’s dark skin while looking at her on a small monitor from the camera operating room—she’s the dark-skin behenji-type, the kind you can charm easily and fool into having sex with you, one of them says. It uncannily smacks of the real. Banerjee knows his material and is in perfect control of the form as well as his characters—most of the actors are novices, but their performances are never off pitch.
LSD is raw and courageous; it is not pretty, but it has beauty—well worth switching off Set Max for 2 hours this weekend.
Love, Sex aur Dhoka released in theatres on Friday.