Dev Bhramar strikes a deal with a home care nurse called Maya to look after his very ill mother in her last few days. This, in turn, triggers a strange turn of events in Kshitij Sharma’s film adaptation of author Guy De Maupassant’s famous short story, Le Diable.
Made on a small budget of around $15,000 dollars Sharma’s adaption of Le Diable has many good things going for it but, despite having some bite, unfortunately, doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to stretch to the 87-minute run time.
Dev Brahmer, played with great intensity by director Sharma, is a simple working man who runs a business and lodgings. He has been tasked with the care of his mother in her dying days and is almost at the end of his tether with the demands of his job, his guests, and his mum. He decides to hire Maya a home care nurse played angelically innocent yet wily by Deeya Dey, who agrees to take on the job at a very low rate. As the demands on the two of them get harder the drinks pour, the tension mounts and both characters begin to lose sight of their moral obligations.
Devil is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Abhishek Negi, despite the dark material they find enough scope to have a brightly lit set that enhances and displays many vivid colours. The performances of the cast are good and the devil itself, despite looking eerily like Star Wars’ Darth Maul, is suitably unsettling and creepy. However, the editing is a little under par as a few of the scenes go on for far too long. The initial job interview between Dev and Maya is just a medium shot of the two of them talking with no real camera movement and this scene, in particular, would have been far better with more cuts. In fact, the whole film would have benefited from a more rigorous cutting program. If the film was shorter, I have no doubt it would have been far more powerful. The screenplay of Devil was written by both Sharma and Dey and they have done a good job in helping the audience feel for these characters and get a real sense of the desperation that builds towards their final outcome.
Brahmer’s situation is a universal issue one that is faced by many family members all around the world who are put in a situation where they are left to look after a dying or dependent relative. Another universal issue is that of Maya, who in a position of desperately needing money is somewhat forced into accepting a very low paid job receiving an extremely raw deal much like workers in today’s ‘gig’ economy.
What differs from this adaptation is that in the initial short story the son feels forced and somewhat guilty about putting his mother’s care in someone else’s hands. Throughout the film, however, Director Sharma’s intention is to make the son come across as boorish and uncaring as possible. There are many shots of him shouting and being aggressive towards people including his sick mother and also lazing around watching TV while leaving virtually all of the housekeeping and well-being of his mum to Maya.
He is not a nice person and comes across as the devil of the piece, which tends to leave the viewer disliking him a great deal. What is interesting about this choice is that it helps Maya to garner the audiences’ support and sympathy despite sometimes being just as bad as Dev and possibly doing the most horrible thing in the entire story. It is this conflicted moral issue as well as the air of a whodunit mystery that gives the story a very original kick.
Despite the conclusion, neither Maya nor Dev come across as evil, they are both just trapped and desperate in their respective situations and the audience is left with their own conundrum. How would you deal with problems that are affecting your pockets, health, and sanity?
As was the original short story’s intent, Maupassant raises questions about the ethical treatment of the dying and what is a child’s moral obligation in caring for their infirm parents? As the final credits roll, it also leaves us pondering who is it that decides when their time has come?