Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Review of Devdas (New)

very interesting take on Bansal's devdas. source unknown.

The Devdas dilemma: should literary works be mummified in their original
form or should they be re-jigged any which way possible to create
nouvelle entertainment for those dumb folk who are unaware of the classics?

Las Vegas meets Durga Puja in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas. The result
is catastrophic, tasteless kitsch. The sets are like lost cities of
Xanadu. Devdas's own home is a gigantic statue-crowded,
chandelier-infested Parthenon. Paro's abode is a mutant cathedral ringed
by stained glass verandahs. Chandramukhi's kotha is a part-Mughal,
part-Hindu Gujarati fantasia. The costumes are strictly mythological.
Modern designers dive into Amar Chitra Katha and surface with lengths of
gold and silver that are wrapped around bejewelled L'Oreal encrusted
nymphs. Frescoes, tapestries and Khajuraho images streak by. Gregorian
chants, Hindustani classical and Indi-pop rise in crescendo. The viewer
cowers in his seat, stupefied by the designer horror unleashed by Bhansali.

Yet, the film's a hit. The irritating NRI whose chief aim seems to be to
patronise films that show India as a land of lurid traditions and comic
book landscapes is thrilled. Indeed, the sets of Devdas are being flown
to Brussels for the wedding of a Gujarati diamond merchant's daughter.
At home, folk who have never heard of Sarat Chandra's novels, are
flocking in feverish numbers to inhale Bhansali's monumental mistake.

The entire point about Devdas the novel is that the love of Devdas and
Paro is perennially and tragically hidden. Love is unspoken. Undeclared.
Who can forget that the most romantic sentence Devdas ever uttered to
Paro (delivered in Dilip Kumar's sensual drawl) was, "Tu kitni badi ho
gayee hai, Paro."

In this film, by contrast, D&P prance past 5-star hotel swimming pools,
pose in calendar art tableaux or say "ish" and "theek acche" in
caricature Bangla. And why on earth do Paro and Chandramukhi meet? Their
very raison d'etre was that they were worlds away from each other! And
Devdas was not just a lovesick drunk. Rather, he symbolised the
emotional collapse and pathetic decline of the Bengali leisured class.
But all Shah Rukh Khan does is hurtle through mammoth Arabian Nights
moonscapes brandishing bottles of amber liquid. Oh please!

Yet, some adaptations have been as great as the original. West Side
Story was an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Peter Brook's Mahabharata
created modern drama from a traditional epic. Othello has been
beautifully re-told in Kathakali. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
was a highly successful take-off from Hamlet. Playwright Jean Anouilh
adapted Antigone, the Greek tragedy into a modern political satire. The
Bible was transmogrified into a brilliant rock concert in Jesus Christ
Superstar. So why not Devdas?

Why not, indeed. Bhansali would argue that more people will seek out the
original story after seeing his film. That the idiot multitude might
even buy a copy of Sarat Chandra's book. Yet the tragedy of Bhansali's
film is that new generations will receive nothing of the emotional depth
of the novel. They will not remember Sarat Chandra's tortured
protagonist and his paralysing inability to express his emotions. All
they will remember of Devdas is a multi-coloured circus.


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