For a long time I have been thinking of reading the "Devdas: A Novel" by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay, which had been the raw material for so many movies of the same name. However I had watched only Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 2002 movie with Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit in the lead roles. Even without reading the novel I found the movie badly made. After seeing "Parineeta" I found that both the novels - "Parineeta" and "Devdas" very much similiar in incidents and treatment, so I thought that Sarathchandra had written same story with two names. But when I got the chance to read this "Devdas" flying in air, I found that Sanjay Leela Bhansali had adapted the story (read as mixed with Parineeta) to mount it in a lavish scale at the cost of its soul.
I heard lot of people eulogising "Devdas" as a classic lover, who turned towards drugs and alcohol when his love didn't materialise. So for a long time I believed that "Devdas" is an epitome of Love. Later when I saw the movie I started questioning about the basic of Devdas. But when I read the original texts of Sarathchandra, I realised that Devdas is a case of confused self destructive youth and even Sarath didn't raise him to the iconic statuses what the movie came later did. Instead Sarathchandra makes Devdas as a case study of how a youth shouldn't be and requests the readers to take care of any such friends in their life.
The novel has such real characters and with the subtexts of the culture prevalent then. Like the caste system that was so strong among the educated Bengalis, very early marriages, the life style of the prositutes and the change in mentality when the life styles changes. But the movie versions drastically changed the situations with melodrama and loud to make the "twists" dramatic. Eventually the book and movie versions look entirely different.
The novel travels in a linear path starting with the childhood friendship of Devdas and Parvathi. After a while the story unfolds through Parvathi's perspective especially when Devdas moves to Kolkatta for his education. Then comes the very famous phase of lovers' estrangement followed by Devdas becoming a drunkard.
Devdas is the most confused creature of the novel and he deserves such treatment for being so. He couldn't make up his mind whether he loves Paro or not in the first place. When you fall in love you must have that courage to take on the world or have the guts to move on when any relationship doesn't work. But Devdas had none of these. Even when he recieves love from Chandramukhi he didn't accept it either. Instead he gets into self destruction mode and kills himself with alcohol. I don't know why the literat(ur)es hail him as an iconic figure.
However this flaw is overcome by the strong female characters - Parvathi & Chandramukhi. Parvathi moves on in her life and becomes a successful wife and "Zamindarini" in life. Chandramukhi leaves her dirty past for the sake of love towards Devdas. These girls had more clarity of life than Devdas. May be that is the point Sarathchandra wants to drive in the readers.
Coming to movie version Sanjay Leela Bhansali had taken a lot of liberties to kill the soul of the novel.
1. Devdas and Parvathy were just 19 & 13 when the marriage comes in between them whereas the movie was some more elder.
2. The reason why Parvathi gets married to a oldman in exaggerated in the movie. There is no showdown sort of between the Parvathi's & Devdas's mother. Even though Parvathi's mother proposes a marriage between Devdas and Parvathy, his mother didn't react which makes Parvathy's mother to pick the message. But it was Devdas who reasons the caste & status for inability to get married. For the sake of drama in the movie, it had been turned into insulting of Paro's mother & reation kinda scenario for Paro getting married to an old man.
3. The scene where Parvathy sneaks into Devdas's room to beg him for their marriage is tampered in the movie. In celluloid his father insults Parvathy as a prostitute who visited her son's room at midnight, so she gets enraged and gives up her intentions of getting married with Devdas. Sanjay had taken this scene from "Parineeta" where hero's father insults Lolita.
4. Devdas is such a brat that he heeds to none in his family. His mother gives up all her efforts to get him domesticated and settles down in Kasi / Varanasi. But in the movie version, to gather more sympathy for Devdas, his mother was shown relinquishing him from home after his father's death.
5. Chandramukhi in the novel is an elder woman to Devdas. She never proposes him for a marriage instead she looks after him with a motherly care. She offers to be his servant maid if he marries some nice girl. But again in movie it is changed to love triangle.
6. The story of Parvathy is insulted in the movie. Sanjay stoops low by introducing a scheming son-in-law (husband of Parvathy's husband's daughter) who eyes on Parvathy and when things didn't work out he poisons against her to Zamindar. But in the novel, Parvathy was very happy, treated with dignity by her in-laws, the children from old marriage.
7. There was no interaction between Parvathy and Chandramukhi in the novel. They never visited each other even though had heard about each other. But in the movie the ladies get bonded and even danced in a great lavishly set Durga Puja and mouthing a dialogue to dignify the prostituites.
8. Worst part of the movie is that it was Shahrukh Khan who was playing himself in the movie, not as Devdas. Don't know how / why the northies were "crying with heavy heart" after seeing the rubbish movie. Even Sarathchandra would have cried his heart out if he had seen this movie because the soul / essence of the book got killed in the grandeur & lavishly mounted sets.
Please guys, don't ever consider Devdas as a hero or an "iconic" figure. On contrary he is an example for self destruction protocol - how a guy shouldn't be in love. Even Sarathchandra, its author, pleads not to self destruct in love - quite vocally.
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