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MOVIE REVIEW: Devdas

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August 2002
MOVIE REVIEW: Devdas

The strength of Sanjay Leela Bhansali?s interpretation of this immortal love story, is its visual and aural richness. From the first visual of the sprawling haveli (mansion) to the final threnody where Aishwarya runs to meet the dying Devdas, you are submerged in rich hues, be it the opening diya song or the revolving dance sequences reminiscent of Mughal-e-Azam and the grandeur of Pakeezah. The spectacular sets (by Nitin Desai) and exquisite costumes (by designers Neeta Lulla, Abu-Sandeep and Reza Sharifi) are designed to overwhelm the senses, no expense being spared.

No wonder Bhansali?s celluloid dream is Indian cinema?s costliest movie at a staggering Rs 50 crore plus!.And the music: Ismail Darbar is in awesome form here with help from veterans like Pandit Birju Maharaj and thrush-throated newcomers like Shreya Ghoshal. The classical tone is sustained in the dances that are brilliantly choreographed. As a romantic musical, Devdas comes up trumps.

Once again, after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Bhansali extracts from the resplendent Aishwarya Rai her career?s finest performance to date. The limpid-eyed beauty relies on body language and expressive glances to convey the depths of her suffering as Paro. From the sharp-tongued courtesan to the woman hopelessly in love, Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi lends great majesty and dignity to her role. It?s a treat to watch these two beautiful and graceful actresses sway together with abandon to Dola re dola.

Jackie Shroff as as Devdas? happy-go-lucky friend Chunnilal, seems to have been inspired by Rajesh Khanna in the old classic Amar Prem.

And Shah Rukh Khan as Devdas? In one word, he is outstanding. He successfully dodges the trap of self-pity to bring out the dark humor of his character, playing an obnoxious drunk with such tenderness. Another good thing, he doesn?t ham, this once. And does his performance match up to Dilip Kumar?s in Bimal Roy?s Devdas? Well, as SRK has himself said in several interviews, he cannot dream of comparing himself to the legendary thespian. ?Devdas is my tribute to Dilip Saab.?

On the negative side: Bhansali succeeds in engaging the eye and the ear but in the process he neglects to engage the heart and mind of the viewer. One gets the feeling that the film lacks heart, a solid emotional core. You could say, all style and little substance. Devdas appears to be more a succession of beautiful montages than a living, breathing space. Often the narrative becomes sluggish ? too many drinking sequences make the pace turgid, and the subtlety one witnessed in Bhansali?s Khamoshi is absent here.

All said, Bhansali?s Devdas, the third celluloid adaptation in Hindi from Sarat Chandra Chatterjee?s timeless novel, may be overdressed to kill but then the underlying theme is so intensely romantic that all?s forgiven. After all, doesn?t the emotion of love have an eternal and universal appeal?


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