What is cinema? Is it storytelling, technique, or performance? And what is its objective? To entertain, inform, or just shake the viewer out of celluloid apathy? Dibakar Banerjee (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Oye Oye) takes on these questions with the noirish Love, Sex Aur Dhoka (LSD).
Shot entirely with handheld cameras, LSD is quite a trip (pun unintended). Three stories from Indian suburbia are loosely knit together, each story told from the point of view of the characters holding the camera; some for reportage, some for digital immortality, some for voyeurism. The stories are hardly unique; one deals with romantic love, one with a Tehelka style sting, while the third capitalizes on the lurid MMS scandals that periodically pop up in the midday tabloids. The plots are familiar, the endings sometimes predictable; it is the filmmaking style that invests them with urgency and credibility. The use of long single shots, necessitated when the characters are not moving and there is only a single camera covering them, challenges the actors to deliver amazingly convincing performances.
Wisely casting unknowns for the movie, Banerjee manages to invest the film with a documentary feel—the characters are completely believable. When bad stuff happens to them, the viewer is jolted by the realism, as if one stumbled on to this cache of home movies and discovered the deep dark secrets within.
The other quality that gives LSD its kick is its authenticity. People fed on a steady diet of Bollywood may find it hard to believe, but LSD is the real India, sometimes gritty, mostly grimy, usually banal. The banality sometimes makes the movie drag, but the performances are good to the point of being hypnotic. You want to know what happens to these flawed souls, much in the way you would follow the lives of your friends from college. The characters represent modern India in a way the Polo-wearing, Gucci-adorned Raj and Simran do not.
The connections between the three stories are not immediately apparent, and the diligent viewer will have quite a few “aha” moments as characters from one story show up in another.
Viewers looking for escapist fare can give it a wide berth—it is just too real and too disturbing—but lovers of serious cinema just have to watch LSD. I guarantee you will be haunted by the movie for days afterwards.
Kid advisory: If you can be called a kid, you better not be watching this movie.
Love Sex Aur Dhoka