July 15, 2002 
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Shah Rukh Khan
Obsession gone wrong
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas disappoints

Shyamala B Cowsik

I could not agree more with Anshuman Rawat. Devdas is a tale of obsession gone terribly wrong.

I did not like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam [Sanjay Leela Bhansali's previous film] and his urge to exhaust every colour on the palette in the loudest, brightest tones possible. But that may be excused --- it was not a classic revisited.

When one remembers the bitter delicacy of the Bimal Roy version [starring Dilip Kumar in 1955] --- the quietude, the aching sadness so starkly portrayed without being buried under all this tinsel --- is enough to make one weep in frustration.

Sadly, it is not the three principal actors in Devdas who fail. Shah Rukh Khan does a good job in a very difficult role. In any case, no one else could have tackled this role. His flashes of arrogant harshness are excellent, and he can carry off sensuous romantic scenes effortlessly.

Madhuri Dixit, while her megawatt charm of Dil To Pagal Hai has faded, does an equally good job. As for Aishwarya Rai, Bhansali has done a masterful job of camouflaging her weaknesses as an actress in practically every scene, and of photographing her to near perfection.

It is the director who lets the actors down in this overloud confection that strains the nerves, the eyes and the ears.

However, I disagree with Rawat on one point. He writes, "Agreed the sets are out of this world and the costumes mindblowing..."

    All about Devdas
Shah Rukh Khan interview
'Devdas makes you cry'
Binod Pradhan on Devdas
'Madhuri's look enthralls'
Neeta Lulla dresses Ash
Writer of Roy's Devdas
Vyjayanthimala speaks
Dilip Kumar on Devdas
Devdas in NY
Bhansali at Cannes
Ash steals the spotlight
Shades from Devdas' saga
On the sets of Devdas
Madhuri Dixit on Devdas
Jackie Shroff on Devdas
The music review

The costumes may be excellent and painstakingly styled, but they lack the aristocratic, understated elegance of the dresses of the same class of Bengalis in, for example, Satyajit Ray's Ghare Bhaire. Ray was an acknowledged master at recreating the ambience of the feudal period in Bengal. Every woman in Devdas looks like an overdecorated Christmas tree, except perhaps for Paro in the beginning. After the interval, Paro catches up with her mother and Devdas' mother in this respect.

As for the sets, they scream of ostentation --- every room has at least one hundred clashing colours in it. Vijayendra Ghatge's (Paro's husband) house has the most ghastly blue walls with plaster mouldings ever seen in Hindi films. The floor inlays in Chandramukhi's kotha will give you a headache. And Paro's house, with more stained glass than the Chartres cathedral, also has walls and decorations that avoid coordination with the stained glass.

Aishwarya Rai The sets of the three houses look like some sort of space city out of a Star Wars film, and no one can imagine anyone with taste and refinement that characterised that class in that age living in such three-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Santosh Sivan in Asoka, with a much wider canvas, had managed an infinitely superior look on a fraction of the stated budget of Devdas.

I might be out of sync with the general public, but if this is what we consider to be the acme of Mumbai filmmaking, God help the discerning audience. People have no business massacering classics like this; there ought to be a law against it.

ALSO READ: The Devdas Special
The Devdas special

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