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Devdas : Old Wine In A New Bottle
APK | June 03, 2006
When Sarathchandra wrote Devdas, the story of an obsessive alcoholic lover in Bengali, he had no idea that it would be made into a movie, and what more, remade again and yet again. It has been explored by movie makers in many Indian languages, and has gone on to become super hits in many of the languages. The movie has been made almost 10 times in different Indian languages. In Hindi and Telugu it has been made a total of five times.
|Bimal Roy||Vedantham Raghavaiah||Sanjay Leela Bhansali|
The book was first published in Bengali in 1917, Sarath Chandra Chattopadhyay's tragic tale of Devdas has become synonymous with a passionate, intense love that does not find consummation.
It is the story of Devdas and Paro, childhood sweethearts. When Devdas returns to his Calcutta home from London, now a handsome lad of nineteen, Paro asks him to marry her. But Devdas is unable to stand up to parental opposition to the match and rejects the proposition. Paro is married off to an elderly widower.
Later, he runs to the married Paro and asks her to elope with him, but she refuses. Heartbroken, he seeks solace in alcohol and in the company of the courtesan Chandramukhi who falls in love with Devdas. To see Paro one last time, he arrives at her doorstep to die. Absolutely tragical, isn't it?
The first attempt to get it on celluloid was by Naresh Mitra in 1928, and was extremely theatrical, but still it was well-scripted. Phanindra Nath Burman, Tarik Bala nd Nihar Bala play the role of Devadas, Paro and Chandramukhi respectively. It was black and white movie of the silent era.
Then came the second, well-received and more popular, officially the first version of Devdas by PC Barua-it had KL Saigal in the lead, and Jamuna and Rajakumari as Paro and Chandramukhi in 1935.
Meanwhile in Telugu, ANR and Savithri set the screen on fire with their passionate depiction of destructive love. This Telugu version was made in 1953 by Vedantham Raghavaiah. Dilip Kumar is reported to have acknowledged that our ANR has done the role of Devdas much better than him which came three years later.
The fourth Devdas was produced and directed by Bimal Roy in 1955, who was the cinematographer for the earlier Devdas by KL Saigal. Dilip Kumar as the protagonist intent on self-destruction, the stunningly beautiful Suchitra Sen as Paro and the danseuse Vyjayanthimala aptly cast as Chandramukhi performed with such intensity and élan that it was an instant hit-Dilip Kumar won the award for the best actor and Vyjayanthimala the best supporting actress which she rejected. This tragic character affected Dilip Kumar so much that he had to visit a psycho analyst to help him deal with the stress that was generated due to this role.
Kaun kambakht bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai (Which sod drinks to handle himself?) became such a famous dialogue that even today when someone mimics Dilip Kumar this is the first dialogue that comes to mind. Composer SD Burman and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi gave ever-green melodies such as 'Aan milo sajna' and 'Woh na aayenge.' The performances and the direction, the script and the music make the movie a masterpiece, like the earlier Telugu version which it was inspired from.
The fifth attempt came from our very own Superstar Krishna who remade this movie in his home banner with his real life wife Vijaya Nirmala and the movie was a box office disaster in spite of great music.
The latest attempt was made by Sanjay Leela Bhansali in 2002 who took this movie to a new level in terms of the budget-an estimated 30 crore. The popular superstars of the day in Bollywood-Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit starred in it with melancholy and hugely successful music by Ismail Durbar. There are a lot of debates on whether this movie lives up to the previously made ones inspite of the money spent on it. But it was a hit and was even screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
|KL Saigal||ANR||Shah Rukh Khan|
The scope it offers movie makers: So why are all these directors so keen to explore a novel which has already been explored to the smallest detail? What attraction does it present to them?
For one, it is the story itself. The ethereal, sad and melancholy feel of the entire book is tempting to be attempted in one's own unique style of presentation. The obsessive lover that Devdas is, his love and his downfall are stuff that the classics are made of.
And secondly, it is the setting. Not only is it a challenge to make a period film, the capability and eye for detail of a director is being tested. It offers great scope to experiment in beautiful costumes and the grandeur of festivals and weddings in India, not to mention the unlimited scope for a music director and the singers to create timeless melodies.
The actors find all this a challenge; not only the character of Devdas but all the other characters including Paro and Chandramukhi are complex, multi-dimensional portrayals which give them a great scope for experimenting with their performances and dances, not to mention a good chance of bagging all the awards!
Right now, if one were to remake Devdas in Telugu, just like the recent remake in Hindi with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, who would be the best choices?
Prabhas, with his dopey eyes and staggering gait might just fit the bill. As for Paro, wouldn't the latest rage Ileana be an apt choice, or perhaps the nubile nymphet Shriya! Chandramukhi could be portrayed by the upcoming southie gal Sneha. This is the choice for the younger lot-but it is always open to debate.
Among the directors, Shekhar Kammula has proved in Godavari that he can handle the characters with a certain sensitivity and maturity, where as the best producer for a period flick would be MS Raju.
As for the more senior stars, Nagarjuna shows a flair for this kind of roles just like his father before him. But the expectations will be unreal if he plays the character that was immortalized by ANR. But Chandramukhi and Paro can remain the same.
But if they had to revamp the story-not the same old wine in a vintage bottle, wiping off the dust; but the vintage wine in a brand new bottle, then Devdas would be a rich college student, Paro a model trying to make it big and marrying a producer so Devadasu turns alcoholic and walks into Chandramukhi's open arms-who of course is a bar dancer, and they'd introduce her with an item song. Two duets-one shot in Prasads Multiplex and the other in Switzerland, and a disco number just before Devdas takes the car to die on Paro's door step with a melancholy background song. But hey, haven't such story lines come out a dime a dozen?
All the same, it is an inspiring classic. This is one story which has stood the test of time.