(2002) Devdas Reviews
Some of the most sumptuous production values in Bollywood history frequently overwhelm the sliver of story in “Devdas,” the latest and most extravagant version of a classic Indian novel of Romeo & Juliet dimensions. Strongly cast with big industry names, and hardly pausing for breath during its three-hour running time, this third feature by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is unquestionably a dazzling ride that’s a superb showcase for contempo Bollywood prowess. Rarely, however, does this tale of doomed love impress on an emotional level, so full on (and, ultimately, deadening) are the design and pacing, especially in the first half. At home, the long-in-production pic (reportedly Bollywood’s priciest to date) is highly awaited, and should perform comfortably when it opens July 14. With 15-20 minutes’ trimming, pic could carve a modest career with non-Indian auds on the basis of its exotic looks alone, but it doesn’t appear to have major breakout potential beyond the sub-continent.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhye’s 1917 novel has been filmed apparently nine times, starting with a silent version in 1928. Prior to the current version by Bhansali, the two previous ones in Hindi were helmed by P.C. Barua in 1935 and by Bimal Roy in 1956. Though not a big success at the time, Roy’s pic is now regarded as a classic of ’50s Hindi cinema — and even the simplest comparisons between his and Bhansali’s versions vividly demonstrate how far Bollywood has traveled in the past half-century.
Roy’s “Devdas,” filmed in B&W, spends the first 25 minutes (and two songs) detailing the sweethearts’ childhood in the countryside, where young Devdas, son of a high-caste landlord, is a prankster, and pretty little Paro, daughter of a lower-caste family, is his best friend. Playing down the melodrama, Roy creates a flowing, socially aware portrait of a love destroyed by class pressures and character weaknesses.
By contrast, Bhansali’s reworking, in splashy color and widescreen, cranks up the fantasy elements, piles on the melodrama and shears back most of the novel’s plot. Set in the early 1900s, pic kicks off with the protags already adults and Devdas Mukherjee about to return home after 10 years in London. As the news of his approach spreads through the huge house — in a breathtaking rush of tracking shots, fluttering fabrics, gossiping relatives and vivid saris — the mothers of Devdas and Paro recall their children as young kids.
Basically, however, Bhansali is more concerned with constructing a giant 20-minute introduction designed to knock the socks off his audience. First, Paro (megababe Aishwarya Rai) is teasingly introduced — almost a limb at a time — as she tends an oil lamp she’s kept burning for Devdas. And after a full-scale musical number, there’s a similarly long, teasing lead-up to intro’ing Devdas (megahunk Shah Rukh Khan).
Strongly recalling the highly textured look of Bhansali’s hit sophomore pic, “Hum dil de chuke sanam” (1999), but visually cranked up even more, the first two reels are breathtaking — after which you expect a drop in temperature and some characterization. However, with scarcely a pause for breath and almost grudgingly dropping in plot elements en route, Bhansali careens on through a magical, semi-dream sequence.
Finally, almost an hour into the movie, comes the first conflict, as Devdas’ snooty mom (Smita Jayakar) refuses a request by Paro’s mom Sumitra (Kiron Kher) for the kids to marry and Sumitra storms out, threatening to marry off Paro to someone else within a week. After a row with his estranged dad, Devdas also storms off — to stay with a friend, Chunnilal (Jackie Shroff), who intros him to the delights of super-courtesan Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit). Devdas tries to patch things up with Paro; but she, accusing him of inconstancy, goes ahead with her arranged marriage to a rich landowner, Bhuvan Choudhry (Vijayendra Ghatge), as the intermission arrives.
Part two essentially traces the long decline of Devdas into alcoholism. And here’s the surprise. Just when the running time enters the period (round about the two-hour mark) when Bollywood pics often go into dramatic rigor mortis, “Devdas” suddenly starts to breathe. Following a scene between Devdas and Paro in which she tries to persuade him to stop drinking — the first sequence that isn’t overwhelmed by production and costume design — Paro then goes to confront Chandramukhi at her luxurious lakeside establishment. Latter admits she still adores Devdas, and Paro invites Chandramukhi to her house for a festival.
The chemistry in this scene between the two actresses eclipses anything thus far. And it sets the scene for the next musical number, a joyful, highly rhythmic dance led by the two femmes, which is an instant, hair-raising Bollywood classic. Pic really takes flight here, as the gamine, almost Audrey Hepburn-like Rai strikes sparks off the older but still vivacious Dixit. Subsequent scene in which the glamorous Dixit defends her profession is the pic’s acting highlight.
Though he never fully loosens up, and consistently looks too old for the part, Khan also blooms more in Part Two and — in almost the only sequence that directly recalls Roy’s 1956 version — gives a good account of his character during a chance meeting with Chunnilal. Other roles are played OK within their limits, with Ghatge quietly dignified as Paro’s sympathetic husband and Shroff lively as the lascivious Chunnilal.
Production design by Nitin Chandrakant Desai (from “Hum dil”) adopts very distinctive styles for the four main sets: the yellow and green, Roman-columned manse of the Mukherjees, the musky stained-glass folly of Paro’s home, the cream and gold expanses of Chandramukhi’s house of pleasure, and the deep reds of Choudhry’s traditional manor house. The way in which most of the film rotates between these four huge sets, with hardly any exteriors or landscapes or major changes of locale, increases the pic’s dramatic claustrophobia. So, too, the sheer Samuel Bronston-like luxuriousness of the costumes which, though often jaw-dropping in their use of fabrics, decorations and hues, gradually overwhelm the viewer with their unrelieved richness.
Just as Bollywood fever takes its grip on the nation, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Devdas” reaches British shores.
Based on one of the most widely-sold novels in India, it tells a story of love and tragedy in a way only Bollywood knows how…
In true “Romeo and Juliet” fashion, childhood sweethearts Devdas (Khan) and Paro (Rai) are lovers whose marriage plans are thwarted by their parents, causing a rift between the two families and leaving Paro to be married off to a rich older man.
Tormented by his longing for Paro, Devdas turns to alcohol for comfort, even refusing the advances of the beautiful courtesan Chandramukhi (Dixit). Paro, meanwhile, is miserable with her luxurious yet emotionally empty new life. Will the lovers ever get to be together? And will you care?
Well, you’d be heartless not to. At over two and a half hours, the film’s epic scale may not suit some Western viewers, but those willing to surrender themselves to the drama are in for a real treat. The film is colourful, to say the least, with some stunning photography and beautifully choreographed song and dance pieces.
Being the most expensive Hindi film ever made, the costumes and sets are suitably exquisite – from the grand scale of the family mansions down to the detail on the women’s saris.
“Devdas” also boasts one of the best looking casts to be seen on screen; stunningly beautiful Rai, a former Miss World, is unsurprisingly the most sought-after actress in Bollywood.
Beneath this façade is an exploration of passion, lost love, and social restrictions which, although it’s treading familiar ground and gets repetitive in the middle section, leads to a genuinely moving conclusion.
This is definitely not your usual multiplex fare, which is precisely why “Devdas” deserves your attention.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas is not only a visual masterpiece but a film that is full of love, longing and raw passionate emotions. From the opening shots alone the camera (in a long take) adopts the position of a ghostly presence in the film through whose eyes you witness the events and love unfold. The first thing that strikes you is Binod Pradhan’s masterful camerawork that sweeps and rises above shots, creating atmosphere and hovering like watchful eyes over the two families that are central to the story of doomed love that continues to keep promise.
Devdas’s story is, simply put, of a man who loves but does not get to be with the one he loves. So deep is his affection that he begins his descent down a self-destructive path, not knowing life without his beloved who he has grown up with. I’ll let other reviewers divulge the story, too much has been written about it anyway, I’d rather concentrate on the film and its merits, and the performances.
The narrative structure of the film is seamless, and void of any redundant comedy tracks, token songs or side-storylines that distract from what is central to the plot, which is essentially the love of Devdas for Paro. The script and dialogues are wonderful. It is rare in Indian cinema to find such a quotable film such as Devdas. Be it references to how ‘no-one turns to drink for salvation’ or the moon descending on earth; Devdas’s dialogues are to die for. Couple good dialogues with excellent delivery and execution courtesy of ace thespian Shah Rukh Khan or Aishwarya Rai or Madhuri Dixit and you have scenes that haunt you, their dialogues echoing in your mind long after the film is over. The way the story, atmosphere and lighting are in sync are superb. How the scene is lit dictates where it’s heading in a way never-before seen in Hindi cinema. Be it the bright exterior cuts or the interior confines of a bedroom or lakeside rendezvous, lamps are always present and the manner in which characters faces are brought to life with the use of lighting is simply brilliant. The background score too beats in tune with the film, with each crescendo steering your breaths’ staccato and informing each one at what pace to exhale. So haunting is the background score, it reminded me of The Godfather theme, which stirs memories and a feel that cannot be associated with any other film. It has that kind of an aura surrounding it.
Performance-wise Shah Rukh Khan has excelled like never before, venturing into new territory breaking barriers where acting is concerned. Such intensity, raw passion, longing, love and desolation has yet to be seen on the big screen, as is portrayed by the one man wonder that has single-handedly revolutionised Indian cinema. His portrayal of the journey undertaken by Devdas from a romantic lover with a temper to the outcast son who knows nothing but pain, drink and memories gone is breathtaking, compelling and par excellence. His stature and the way he carries himself from his introduction scene alone throws you into Devdas’s world, so in no time you understand the character and where he’s coming from. This is without a doubt Shah Rukh’s most romantic and violent film to date. Romantic, because the hero is a failed one who seeks triumph in his falling and what he feels for Paro is a universal and extremely intense love that leads to his own destruction.
Devdas is without a shadow of doubt the epitome for die-hard romantics everywhere, who will no doubt relate to him in some way or the other. It’s also Shah Rukh’s most violent film to date because it completely massacres your emotions. The gut-wrenching performance weaves silently into your heart then begins to spontaneously combust with broken glass that cuts with each trouble the fateless lover experiences. By the end of the film, the Devdas we see is not the same one that was introduced. It is a fallen man who has read his own funeral rites, become physically weaker and incapable and has broken down in every way physically and emotionally because of how much he feels for one girl. Shah Rukh’s intense and devastatingly shattering performance leaves a mark on Indian cinema that will surely be looked back on for decades to come. Among the highlights are all his scenes with Aishwarya and Madhuri, the confrontational scenes with his father (whether he is present or not) and the drunken stupor he portrays so elegantly and realistically of a man who is in that state because of a crushed and massacred heart. Delivering an award winning performance, Devdas is definitely Shah Rukh’s finest hour to date, proving there’s so much more to the man who has been consistently questioned after any one film does not match critical expectations.
Aishwarya Rai has yet again come up trumps with a performance that is as subdued as Nandini was extroverted in Bhansali’s last film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Her character is much more difficult to play than any of her previous on-screen incarnations, as it requires a depth of understanding of the history of her character, the background and traditions of the family. Then she must emote and react to all around her as one of that background would while playing a resilient, wanting lover to Devdas who must not only display naïveté and simplicity, but also empowerment and grandeur, while consistently walking with grace. Such a role is as complex to describe as it is to assay, and so Devdas’s Paro is a role that is an extremely challenging one…a challenge Aishwarya rises to and meets head on, effortlessly displaying why her name will be etched in history forever as Paro’s pain is reflected through her glazed and inferno-ridden eyes showing love, anguish, respect and the burden of responsibility. Much has been written about Aishwarya’s acting credentials and this film nails the coffin of detractors firmly shut, as she not only matches every gaze of Shah Rukh’s with equal intensity (but more subdued in tune with the character), but also matches histrionics with a legend of Indian cinema, Madhuri Dixit.
Madhuri’s role of the courtesan who falls for the man who’s hopelessly intoxicated on love and his first flame, while breaking out of a cocoon created around her, purpose-built to trap her and her view of the world since an early age is by far one of her most daring roles to date. Madhuri fans will not only be taken aback but delighted with her performance that oozes a mesmerising magic that only Madhuri has captured and held for over a decade. Her screen presence with Shah Rukh is spellbinding and her moments with Aishwarya are a dream. Seeing the two screen beauties together, both who hold great capabilities and talent and have worked their way into celluloid appreciation, one is reminded of how natural the progression is of the Hindi film heroine. At any one time in Indian cinema, there has only been one actress who has captivated and become the quintessential heroine for that period and Devdas shows how Aishwarya will carry on wherever Madhuri leaves off. Both are vessels of talent that have an untapped reservoir within them, bound only by the restrictions of a role, and both have proved time and again they can create cinematic magic. Madhuri may have less screen-time than Aishwarya and may not be the central character, but her pivotal Chandramukhi is charming and a great balancing factor in the film and characters’ lives. She aptly delivers a once-in-a-lifetime performance in a role that allows scope to make each of the twenty four frames that pass per second hers, while she dominates the screen.
Nitin Desai’s sets are a feast for the eyes, intoxicating the audience as much as Shah Rukh’s character indulges in on-screen. The palace, the stairs, the pillars and the lights, all appear in an all-too-real-looking world that makes you wonder if you really are living in the right side of town. The costumes are heavy and glittery, Madhuri’s Benarus saris and Ash’s traditionally bordered Dhakai cotton saris adorning each beauty while adding glow to both actresses.
Direction by Sanjay Leela Bhansali pays attention to detail be it in the environment or in the character traits. Bhansali has dared to dream an epic on celluloid and successfully transcribes his vision from imagination to big screen in what really is a grand saga of timeless love. The saga tells the story of a man, a woman and fate. Destiny ensures the man’s unfulfilled love ends in a timeless manner that will immortalise it forever. Devdas is a film that’s intense, emotionally driven and packed full with feasts for the eye and laden with top performances that rank in the finest of Indian cinema history. Witness for yourself the love, the pain and the salvation. Cinema doesn’t get any better than this.
Devdas has finally come to the screen. Since it is this year’s biggest and most awaited film, the expectations are sky high. The film has proved the waiting worth. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s effective good story telling, stunning visuals, spectacular and an amazing star cast give the audience a unique experience.
Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) and Parvati (Aishwarya Rai) have shared a special bond since childhood. The natural and flawless affection is put to the test when Devdas is sent away to England for higher studies.
Parvati (or Paro) waits for him and lights a diya signifying her undying love for Devdas. When he finally returns Paro´s world lights up again. Paro´s mother Sumitra (Kiron Kher) supports their love. However the love story takes an unfortunate turn after Devdas’ mother Kaushalya (Smita Jaykar) insults Sumitra and refuses to accept Paro as her daughter-in-law. Sumitra is terribley hurt and arranges Paro´s wedding to Zamindar Bhuvan (Vijayendra Ghatge), a rich widower.
Devdas, hurt and upset by these developments, turns to his college friend Chunni Babu (Jackie Shroff). Babu opens Devdas’ introduses him the world of alcohol and prostitutes.
Enter Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit) a popular tawaif, who falls in love with Devdas. However, even her love cannot save Devdas who has by then becomes an alcoholic. He tries to numb the pain of his lost love with the help of alcohol and it is that alcohol. Finally the alcohol puts an end to his life.
The story is nothing new; in fact this is the fourth version of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhye’s novel in the big screen. However Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction with fresh outlook and innovative treatment along with the screenplay the story gets entirely a new life.
There are some excellent scenes that show the class of Sanjay Bansali:
· Sumitra being insulted by Kaushalya and Sumitra’s consequent outburst.
· Devdas’ reaction to his father’s death and his scene at the funeral.
· Tthe portions following ´Dola Re´ where Madhuri confronts Milind Gunaji.
· The well-shot climax
These sequences prove that Bhansali is way ahead of his contemporaries. He also utilizes poetic dialogues, in almost all the reels, courtesy of Prakash Kapadia.
Bhansali has succeeded in extracting some amazing performances from the stars. Shah Rukh Khan’s performance is solid. The first half he doesn’t have much scope but makes use of the better scope he has been provided with in the second half. He impresses in the funeral scene.
Aishwarya Rai, the beauty queen gives her best performance to date. She uses her emotive eyes to the best of her ability. She has done extremely well in the scene where she meets Milind Gunaji, and the sequence where she first meets Chandramukhi. Apart from emoting well, she carries herself with a lot of grace. Her dances are undoubtedly the highlight of the film. She completely steals the show in the climax, where she runs through the haveli to catch one last glimpse of Devdas.
Madhuri Dixit, the versatile actress also impresses as the fiery Chandramukhi. She leaves a mark in the scene following Dola Re, and the scene where Devdas finally admits his love for her. She might have been given the smallest role among the three, but she takes full advantage of whatever given to her.
Among the rest Kiron Kher gives a shinning performance. Without overdoing her fun loving character she breathes life into Sumitra. Jackie fails to impress as Chunni Babu.
Technically the film is perfect. A lot of money has been spent for sets and it shows everywhere. Nitin Chandrakant Desai´s designs for the haveli’s can be termed as the best sets designs we have ever witnessed on screen. The beautiful glasswork in Paro´s haveli, the stunning wall tapestries adorning the walls of Paro and her husband’s house, and Chandramukhi’s utterly breathtaking kotha, are spectacular. Desai deserves full credit.
Binod Pradhan´s cinematography captures each frame and turns it into art. Costumes are just as good as the sets. They are stunning and fit very well with the period of the film. Neeta Lulla and the team of Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla (costume designers) deserve full marks.
Ismail Darbar’s music adds to the grandeur of the film. The music completely compliments the film by creating the apt mood for each scene. The picturization of Hamesha Tumko Chaha will bring a tear to the viewer’s eye. Choreography is fantastic, which is complemented by two of India’s best dancers Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai.
Despite all these outstanding aspects, the film does have some minus points. The story gets boring in some areas. The length of the film could also have been reduced up to some extent. However, the stunning visuals certainly make up for it.
Overall Devdas is pleasing to the eye and fulfils the grand expectation. Though the story does drag and seem boring at times, it is a sincere effort of Sanjay and his team. The spectacular colors amazing sets, excellent costumes, outstanding performances, fantastic dialogues, great music and well choreographed dances give us a unique experience and a great satisfaction. In short, Bhansali´s Devdas is a visual masterpiece with a fresh treatment of a tragic love story.
Bollywood, or commercial Hindi cinema from India, made a huge step toward mainstream recognition in the Western world when the lavish historical drama Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India was one of the five nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award this March. While it is the first film of the traditional musical Bollywood mold to make the final Oscar cut, Lagaan is remarkably Yank-accessible, from the presence of prominent British characters to its straight-out-of-Tinseltown underdog sports movie formula (never mind that the sport in question was cricket). It makes for an ideal “Bollywood for beginners” film, which is not meant to be taken dismissively. The film is a rousing entertainment with catchy music and terrific choreography; it’s just that the Bollywood touches are made all the more palatable for the Western viewer through familiar, comfortable packaging.
India’s official entry for the 2003 Foreign Language Film Oscar race, “Devdas,” is a more undiluted taste of Bollywood and, perhaps not so coincidentally, a far stronger film than last year’s breakthrough entry. An adaptation of a famous and oft-filmed 1917 novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhye, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s masterful film is full of the broad strokes characteristic of popular Indian cinema: some of the acting isn’t exactly subtle; the comedic bits are sometimes overripe; the extreme drama is strictly befitting the prefix of “melo-“–and made all the more so, of course, by the musical sequences. But such hyper reality couldn’t be more appropriate for this sweeping, operatic romance. As the film begins, the title character (Shahrukh Khan) returns to India after studying law in England, intending to rekindle his romance with childhood sweetheart Paro (Aishwarya Rai). She is certainly eager to reciprocate, but less than eager to see these two soul mates share a life together is Devdas’ family, who’d rather see him find a match more equal in social and financial station–thus setting into motion a series of events that proves to be destructive to all parties involved.
One doesn’t need to know of “Devdas”‘ celebrated literary origins to recognize it as being an archetypal romantic tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” proportions, and Bhansali literally spared no expense to make his version just as larger-than-life as the novel’s legacy. At a budget of $15 million, it is the most expensive Bollywood film in history, and every last cent shows in every last inch of this lavish production. Binod Pradhan’s stunning cinematography makes the bold colors of the opulent sets and the gorgeous period costumes even more ravishing to behold.
Undoubtedly the eye candy and hefty price tag played a part in the film getting tapped to premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (though out of competition), but there’s more to “Devdas” than extravagance; the emotion and passion of the story is felt just as strongly in every frame as the budget. Khan and Rai’s chemistry is palpable from their first scene together, instantly creating a rooting interest in Devdas and Paro’s coupling. Apart, the pair creates believable, fully fleshed-out people though Khan lays on his character’s self-destructive streak a bit too thick at times. Better is Rai, who makes Paro’s evolution from sheltered girl to mature woman quite compelling as courtesan Chandramukhi, Madhuri Dixit turns what could’ve been the throwaway third point in a triangle into a character just as complex and sympathetic as the other two.
And then, of course, there are the musical numbers, which intensify the gamut of emotions that run through the film. Dixit and Rai are excellent dancers, and their joint number, superbly choreographed and captured with bravura Busby Berkeley-style camera work, is an exhilarating highlight; on the flip side one has to be made of stone not to be moved by the heartbreaking pre-intermission duet between Devdas and Paro. Bhansali does hit a wrong note by stalling the tragic momentum with a late lighthearted number, but this minor stumble doesn’t blunt the emotional impact of the finale or the whole of this beautiful film.
A mystical experience courtesy of visually technical values and some superlative performances. That is, the tragic love story of Devdas and Paro, which has finally come to the screen in the form of Sanjay Leela Bhansali´s epic Devdas. Devdas is this year’s biggest and most awaited film, and the expectations are sky high. Sanjay Leela Bhansali´s knack for good story telling and an amazing star cast ensure that the film will take a great initial, but with such a big budget one wonders if the film will be able to recover all costs. It has been touted as the most expensive film to ever be made in Bollywood, and it shows. Visually stunning, Devdas is full of colors and breathtaking sets, which will keep your eyes glued to the screen.
Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) and Parvati (Aishwarya Rai) have shared a special bond since childhood and is put to the test when Devdas is sent away to England to further his studies. Parvati (or Paro) waits for him and lights a diya signifying her undying love for Devdas. When he finally returns Paro´s world lights up again. Their love is fully supported by Paro´s mother Sumitra (Kiron Kher) who is full of life and joy. However thanks to a meddling sister-in-law (Ananya), the love story takes an unfortunate turn after Devdas´ mother Kaushalya (Smita Jaykar) insults Sumitra and refuses to accept Paro as her daughter-in-law. The hurt Sumitra arranges Paro´s wedding to Zamindar Bhuvan (Vijayendra Ghatge), a rich widower. Hurt by the turn of events Devdas turns to his college friend Chunni Babu (Jackie Shroff) who opens Devdas´ eyes to the world of alcohol and prostitutes. Enter Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit) a popular tawaif, who falls in love with the righteous Devdas. Sadly even her love cannot save the doomed Devdas who quickly becomes an alcoholic. The pain of his lost love can only be numbed by alcohol and it is that alcohol which ultimately consumes Devdas´ life.
The theme of the film is nothing new; in fact this is the fourth version of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhye’s novel to hit the screen. However under the direction of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who co-wrote the screenplay with Prakash Kapadia, the story comes to life thanks to a fresh outlook and innovative interpretation. The film is not perfect; in fact it´s far from perfect, in the essential factoral category of putting together a powerful film.
While Bhansali´s version is visually stunning, the pace of the film is uneven. The first half is slow in some parts and only gains true momentum post Morey-Piya once Paro´s wedding to Bhuvan is arranged. Thankfully, however, Bhansali does not waste your time showing the lovers as children. Instead he chooses to tackle that topic through periodic flashbacks.
An emotive tale, a set back on the feel is the fact that the audience is certainly more inclined to feel for the torn Paro and the courtesan trying to find love more than Devdas. It is almost as if the mis-understanding of Devdas by all around him is brought to life by not giving the audience a chance to understand him. While that is of relative importance, the dramatic intervals work for the most part. Assembling many other scenes of emotive excellence like Sumitra being insulted by Kaushalya and Sumitra´s subsequent outburst, Devdas´ reaction to his father death and his scene at the funeral, the portions following ´Dola Re´ where Madhuri confronts Milind Gunaji and the well-shot climax all show us why Bhansali is considerably leagues ahead of some of Bollywood’s current directors. He also utilizes poetic dialogues, which are heavily evident throughout the film, probably a few in each reel, courtesy of Prakash Kapadia. The comparisons of the scarred moon, the dialogues about a woman scorn, and the lines that Devdas retorts frequently, “They tell me to leave the house… Paro tells me to leave drinking… One day he will tell me to leave the world…”, all lend poetic justice to the beautiful picture.
Even still, despite all his efforts, Devdas fails to captivate the viewer in every scene of the film, which we all hoped for. The story gets boring in some areas, but the saving factor is that it doesn´t completely disappoint. And when the pace tags on the viewer, the stunning visuals certainly make up for it. While Devdas may have been Sanjay Leela Bhansali´s hardest project to date, and the work clearly shows, Khamoshi- The Musical would still classify as his best work. The film carries a certain subtlety, which at the very least is nowhere in this majestical fairy tale enterprise.
Technically the film is flawless. If you are bored with the story, then the visuals more than make up for it and make for some interesting viewing. A lot of money has been spent and it shows everywhere. Nitin Chandrakant Desai´s designs for the haveli´s is by far the best sets designs we have ever witnessed on screen. Whether it´s the beautiful glasswork in Paro´s haveli, the stunning wall tapestries adorning the walls of Paro and her husband’s house, or Chandramukhi´s utterly breathtaking kotha, the sets are spectacular. He deserves all the acclaim he can get for his work here, as by far this is the best setting an Indian film has seen. To help along the way Binod Pradhan´s cinematography captures each frame and turns it into art. The interesting camera angles show off as much of the sets as they can, and the lighting further enhances the delicate work that has gone into constructing these huge houses. Bhansali also uses colors to his advantage, which we witnessed in his last effort Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Costumes are just as intricate as the sets. While they look like they weight a ton, the clothing is stunning and fits very well with the period of the film. Full credit goes to Neeta Lulla and the team of Abu Jani´ and Sandeep Khosla´ who have poured their everything into dressing up the stars.
Ismail Darbar´s music also adds to the grandeur of the film. The music completely compliments the film and is perfect in creating the mood for each scene. While some songs get in the way (especially Chalak Chalak), others are used to help the plot progress (Morey Piya and Hamesha Tumko Chaha). The picturization of Hamesha Tumko Chaha will bring a tear to the viewer’s eye. Choreography is fantastic, and why not, the film brings together two of India´s best dancers. Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai´s dance sequence in Dola Re is very well done and definitely deserves a mention. Mar Dala and Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka are also well choreographed.
One department where Bhansali gets full marks for is extracting some amazing performances from his cast. Shah Rukh Khan is Devdas, you can see how much effort he has put into his performance. Although he does ham it up in a few scenes, overall his performance is solid. In the first half he doesn´t have too much of a scope for performance (again, despite being the central protagonist), but after the interval he impresses with his drunken scenes. He really impresses in the funeral scene. Essentially, when he’s not repeating some of his usual emotions, he has done a great job. And he shares excellent chemistry with Aishwarya and Madhuri, which helps him with his performance. His performance may not be award worthy, but it is definitely applaud worthy and certainly one of his better in recent times (including that of Asoka).
Aishwarya Rai gives her best performance to date. She uses her emotive eyes to the best of her ability. The scene where she meets Milind Gunaji is impressive as is the sequence where she first meets Chandramukhi. Not only does she emote well, but also she carries herself with a lot of grace. And her dances are the highlight of the film. However if there is one scene, which is completely hers, it´s the climax, where she runs through the haveli to catch one last glimpse of Devdas. Interestingly enough, a viewer will certainly feel that she has more screen time than both of the actors, but it is her awesome screen presence, which allows this. The actress has been given a great deal of footage and takes full advantage of it. Wherever the rumors begun of her disappointment by Madhuri’s “supposed” overpowering, they can surely end now.
Madhuri Dixit also impresses as the fiery Chandramukhi. She leaves a mark in the scene following Dola Re, and the scene where Devdas finally admits his love for her. Of the three she has the smallest role, but she takes full advantage of every scene she is given. Had her role been a little longer she would have left much more of an impact. Of the supporting cast Kiron Kher gives a shinning performance. Without overdoing her fun loving character she breathes life into Sumitra. Her confrontation with Kaushalya is award worthy, and her scene just before the interval leaves an impression. Jackie does not impress as Chunni Babu. He hams it up in all of his scenes and his character is drastically underdeveloped. Smita Jaykar also hams it up in her initial scenes, and does not leave any impression. The rest of the cast is adequate.
Devdas pleases the eye and provides more than adequate satisfaction for those highly anticipating it. It is certainly a theatrical experience, at the very least, as that is the only way you can take in the grand scale on which it has been mounted. While the story does drag and seem boring at times, it is an honest effort and Sanjay Leela Bhansali should be proud of this film. The movie is filled with colors and amazing sets and costumes. Add some excellent performances, fantastic dialogues by Prakash Kapadia, great music and well choreographed dances and you have a film which may not live up to unnecessarily towering expectations but almost makes it there. Bhansali´s Devdas is a visual masterpiece with a fresh treatment of a tragic love story. We are undoubtedly taken to higher levels of film making in many portions of Devdas, but unfortunately not completely.