Thursday, 10 March 2011

Devdas (2002)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya, Rai, Jackie Shroff, Kirron Kher
Released: 2002
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The story of Devdas, set in 19th century India, has first seen the light of day as a short novel by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay in 1917. The author was deeply dissatisfied with his own work and objected strongly against its publication. „It was written in a drunken state,“ he admitted. „I am ashamed of the book now. It is immoral. There is a prostitute in it and God knows what else!“ But the book was published still and it became probably the most popular Indian text of modern time. The journey of a man overpowered by his own weakness has made its way into the world of films more then ten times already, one of the most recent adaptation being the one by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Released in 2002 the movie was a super-hit and already is being labelled as classic. Many people from other countries choose it as their first Indian movie and for many of them it is an all-time favourite. What is the magic here?

The story is not complicated. Devdas and Paro are childhood sweethearts up until the moment Devdas is sent away by his displeased father to study law in London. When he finally returns, he is a grown man and Paro blossomed into a stunningly beautiful girl. The separation did not shatter the closeness between the two, and soon they fall in love. However Paro´s family has a lower social status and hence the marriage is out of the question in the eyes of the young man´s parents. Things are made even worse when Devdas´ mother publicly insults the mother of Paro, after which the latter swears she will wed her daughter to a family even richer then the one of Devdas. After a heated argument with his father Devdas gives into his weakness and instead of standing up to his parents runs away from home, leaving confused and broken-hearted Paro behind. Only after realizing his mistake he comes back only to arrive on the day of Paro´s wedding to a much older man. Half-mad with pain Devdas seeks the company of beautiful courtesan Chandramukhi and for the first time he raises the glass of alcohol to his lips....
Devdas as handsome English gentleman....
Devdas was my first Bollywood experience, and what an experience! The genius of Sanjay Leela Bhansali´s sensitive touch is breathing from every single frame, not one place in the movie is boring, every detail has its meaning. It is udisputable, that Bhansali is way ahead of everyone when it comes the work with colours and materials. His dedication to every aspect of the project in making is admirable. To endow a film with such opulence it is easy to loose the touch with story-telling, but that is not the case with Bhansali´s Devdas. The director changed some aspects of the story, for which some people could not forgive him, but all the changes in the end contributed to the ultimate appeal of the film. Shahrukh Khan did probably described the film best, when he mentioned it as „visual orgasm“. The lavish sets and marvelous costumes leave one brethless and stunned, but in the end the story was what remained in memory the most.

All the characters are wonderfully human. There is Devdas, who is weak-willed and rather spoilt, but all he longs for is in fact appreciation of his father. There is Paro, who is dignified and dutiful, but at the same time she has pride. And the prostitute, that the author of the original novel was in the end horrified of, is a woman supposedly with no valued in life, yet she is the one who sarifices her peace of mind for a man who will never love her. The three main protagonists have done a brilliant job. Devdas is by many (including me) considered Shahrukh Khan´s best role till date. His Devdas, who comes from London, has an air of grandieur and arrogance to him, which melts completely into a self-pity and wallowing in the second part of the movie, only to be reduced to man pursuing his dying wish. Aishwarya Rai gave the role of Paro her glamorous beauty, that perfectly compliments the dignity of the character. Her most powerful scene has to be the final „run for the gate“, where she manages to be absolutely heart-breaking.
Paro and her diya...
And then there is of course Madhuri Dixit. Her Chandramukhi is by far the most convincing and the most interesting character in the film. When she first appears, you feel she is mischievous, level-headed women very much aware of her charm and abilities. You know she is intelligent and sensitive, and very, very much emphatic. And when love happens to her, she gives into it and treasures it, evne though it´s unanswered up until the final parting with Devdas. Madhuri Dixit has always had a gift to portrai a woman completely in love, and this time she combined this quality with tragic passions and devotion. Her Chandramukhi is breathing, thinking, living person, whom everybody would love. That is her magnificent acting power.

Of the supporting characters Kiron Kherr as Paro´s mother and Jackie Shroff as Chunillal are given the most space, and both are making the most of it. Especially Jackie proved his versatility, because the light-headed drunkard with good heart is nowhere near the roles he had done previously. His interaction with both Madhuri and Shahrukh is very natural. The only actress, whose performance was somehow over the top and not pleasant to watch was Ananya Khare, in the role of Kumud, who, I felt, was trying to hard and failed to impress. Some might say she was meant to be annoying, but I don´t think that´s a justification for the over-dramatic acting.
Meet Chandramukhi - woman literally as beautiful as the Moon
Just like he is amazing in his work with visual part of the film, Bhansali is also known as a great lover of music. Songs and dance numbers in his films are not meant just to pass the time, they are the essential part of the storytelling. As a result Devdas has been given a truly outstanding musical score, where every song is a sheer delight. And the picturization is just as satisfactory. The energetic and lively Dola Re Dola is in my oppinion the grandest dance number in the Hindi cinema ever. The purely Indian Kahe Chhed Mohe is an enchanting fairytale and lyrical Maar Daala weaves magic. Silsila Yee Chahat Ka is a golden moment for all lovers of the singer Shreya Goshal.

Looking at this film objectively, seeing it´s splendor and opulence, one has to admit Devdas is not realistic as such. One needs to perceive it as a fairytale or a different world, much more grand and much more colourful. However the emotional impact and love tragedy, that leaves Romeo and Juliet in shame, is wonderfully moving and captivating. It is a splendid movie.
This is the one scene that ALWAYS makes me cry!


  1. 10/10 is a joke of a rating I believe. You do need to read the actual novel, to watch the previous versions and then decide what Mr. Bhansali has made of emotions. The over the top loud jarring performances, sets and characterizations might have got cash registers ringing but to a sane movie-goer this is an escapist dream which has just managed to make farce the true dignity of a poignant love story.

  2. I have read bits and pieces of the novel and I have seen Bimal Roy´s version too. What Bhansali set out to do was not to make an exact adaptation of the book, nor a copy of previous films. He made his own version of the story. And if you read more then the rating on this page, then you can see what I think abuot performances, sets etc. And the fact that previously I was copletely unaffected by any preconcieved notion, nor did I know the actors, makes me, in this one case, a very much unbiased viewer. The film is splendid.

  3. I have never watched this movie in its entirety but as an Indian film-watcher I know a lot about it anyway. Great review - I can see your POV although I would have been too much of a crying mess by the end to even write a coherent sentence. LOL I am a sap. My favourite song was "Hamesha Tumko Chaaha" - such emotion!

  4. By reading your review, it is so obvious that you are biased towards madhuri.

  5. When I watched it the first time, I had no idea who Madhuri is. This was my first BOllywood film and I knew nothing about Bollywood before watching it. And like this, with clear mind and absolutely without ANY preconcieved notion, I was struck by Madhuri - by her incredible performance, by everything she did. Just because I loved her to death in this, you call me biased? Why? I love Aishwarya as well. But to me she is nowhere near to Madhuri in any department. That is not called biased. That is called taste.

  6. OK, I don't know how else I can send this message to the person, so sorry that I have to write it here. If you are linked to someone who uses the name Diamanta.Bralova in YouTube and Fanfiction, can you please tell her to please continue the fiction stories she wrote for Devdas in Fanfiction? She started the first chapters of 2 stories: "How Devdas should have ended" and "Another beautiful day" and I've been waiting for so long to see more chapters...So, Diamanta.Bralova, more chapters please... :) Thanks a lot Gaja Gamini.

  7. I've somehow always disagreed to the way they make MD's role only as a "supporting role". She's the soul of this movie, I think (and I believe so do many other people :)). I've a DVD of it, watched the full length of it once and since then, I've watched only the 2nd half of it MANY times. Seriously, MANY! :D I recently found the 1955 version in a DVD shop, purchased it and loved it too, although I haven't done much of similar repeated watching as I've done with this 2002 version. And now, excitedly waiting for my order of the novel to be delivered by a book store! Yey! :D

  8. After 3 failed attempts, I finally made it all of the way through Devdas tonight. Not because the film wasn't all you promised - it was - but because I kept dissolving into a puddle of weepiness! An achingly lovely film...and an SRK high water mark, to be sure.

  9. You're first experience with Bollywood is similar to mine. Devdas was my first time watching a Bollywood movie. I kind of knew who Ash was because of some of her Hollywood stuff, but I'd never actually seen her movies. I didn't know who Madhuri was, but when I watched the movie, I felt that there was really something special about her.

    I've watched many other Bollywood movies, and honestly, I don't think any of the lead actresses compare to Madhuri. She's truly in a league of her own and it's a crime that many of us here in the US don't know who she is.

  10. I simply love this movie,it's beautiful,beautiful love story...specially the love of Chandramukhi for Devdas, in which she didn't expect him to love her back because she wanted him happy.
    But I must ask you one thing: your fanfic of Devdas and Chandramukhi that you did on your tumblr,I spent the whole night reading and loving it but somehow it ended all of sudden.
    I don't wanna sound desperate,although I do haha, but where are the other parts of it? I'd really,really like to continue reading.And BTW,you write just so well!!
    Love your blog and your tumblrs.
    Waiting for your answer!!
    Much love!!