That an extremely promising trailer with eye-catching visuals and a truly energetic soundtrack needn't make for a compelling film is tellingly brought out after watching Bejoy Nambiar's David. The film, which actually raised much expectation, turns out to be a huge disappointment with little content and just some style.
Sure, it sounded good, in fact, great as a concept. Three different protagonists in three different eras connected thematically, all having the same name, battling thier internal Goliaths and kind of - by the end - having a (contrived) connection of sorts but that's all the film remains - a good idea and little else.
The minute one has three stories running in the film, comparative judgements are inevitable as to which one works better than the other. In David, on a level ground, all 3 stories aren't particularly interesting to begin with. Still, the London saga has more elements and layering in its noir-like tale to work with and therefore, come off best. Though why it is shot in B&W one doesn't really know. The retro age had its own unique colour palette (watch That 70s Show) which is totally lost in the decision to keep it B&W. The other two stories - set in Mumbai (1999) against the backdrop of rising Hindu fundamentalism, and the 'love story' in Goa (2010) are plain insipid - not just in their content but even in terms of treatment and style, which at times is just too filmi - the fight before the interval, like a typical loud South film even beginning with the fighters charging in slow motion towards the hero in turns. And just setting scenes in interesting, beautiful and uncommon locations doesn't help if the scenes themselves are so weak especially in the Goan segment where all attempts at humour and quirkiness fall totally flat in the execution, even if present on an idea level.
The cutting between the three eras doesn't work as there seems to be no connection barring a superficial thematic thread. One suspects that the makers hoped the structure itself would lend some complexity and layering to the film because much of the script really has none. Also, if one saw the film in an episodic manner with one story at a time, possibly the ones following the London segment, which at least some ups and downs, would just be that much more unbearable seen at a stretch, flat as they are in their narration. However, the intercutting, while giving the film an interesting structure is not well-thought out and neither are the transitions between the various eras to give the film a more seamless flow. Consequently, each time the film cuts away from London to the other two stories, there is a feeling of restlessness and at the same time with this form of storytelling, you are never long enough with any particular story to get into it fully. And when the end connection does come around at the end, it is not entirely convincing.
Leave alone the basic stories, the film fails to flesh out most of its characters convincingly for us to go along with them. There are uncommon and interesting, at least to begin with, characters like Tabu's world-wise masseuse who is also the always drunk Vikram's agony aunt but the film is unable to do enough with them. And to make things worse, barring Neil Nitin Mukesh, much of the cast is 'acting'. Neil makes an impact for the first time since Johnny Gaddaar and actually appears subtle and nuanced as compared to rest of the cast. Vinay Virmani is just so-so while Vikram, in spite of tremendous screen presence, is unable to balance the thin line of his character having a certain naiveté and looking a little mentally challenged in places. Incidentally, what is that bit about him loving to punch women all the time including elderly aunties??? He is supposed to be a fisherman but after his intro, we never see him anywhere near a fish except when his mother is cooking one and neither do we see whether Vinay is really a talented enough musician to feel his struggle, barring a montage of guitar teaching and a little gig elsewhere. Of the non-Davids, Nasser lends his role some dignity, Sheetal Menon makes an impact, Isha Shervani looks pretty though little else and Tabu is adequate but veteran Rohini Hattangadi and Monica Dogra are both theatrical and OTT.
Technically, again the London saga is treated with more care and stands out even from the camera point of view, which one has to say is not bad in the other two segments also, the music, good enough for a standalone sound-track, doesn't always gel with the film, while use of slow motion, particularly in the 1975 section, is overdone to death in the name of style. And, granting the film cinematic liberties, the dull narration still makes you think about some of them instead - an explosion in Delhi masterminded from across the border in 1975? So much rain in Mumbai in February?? Ah well...
All in all, David is a big, big let down. Incidentally, the Tamil version sees only two Davids with the Neil Nitin Mukesh story left out. And while one feels it was still the best of the 3, if the filmmaker himself obviously felt the film stands alone without it, what was the point of making it then? In fact, you are often left wondering while watching the film - why?