/ produced by Bharat Shah / directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali
/ starring Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai & Madhuri Dixit
/ music by Ismail Darbar / lyrics by Nusrat Badr
the confession. 'Devdas' was the film that hooked this reviewer
on Bollywood. Imagine: Snagging the last seat in a packed theater,
front row center, and quickly forgetting the neck spasms as
three of Bollywood's biggest stars fall in love overhead. What
movie screen, what popcorn bag? The eyeballs were full of saris
and Shah Rukh, his lips about three feet tall.
only everyone could watch 'Devdas' this way, because director
Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn't make this a TV-sized movie. Big,
everything big, starting with the budget -- the most expensive
Indian film ever made. The press marveled over the size of the
mansions constructed for the sets, and the weight of the jeweled
dresses Madhuri Dixit wears for her dances, and finally the
opening-day crowds. Big. Bigger. Unfortunately, the disappointment
was also huge when 'Devdas' missed an Oscar nomination.
frankly, it didn't deserve one.
is not to say the movie is bad. 'Devdas' is one of the first
Indian films you should see, if only for a sense of how grandly
Bollywood can unfurl itself. It also has the most solidly beautiful
soundtrack this reviewer has ever heard, with on-screen performances
story itself is pretty simple. In an India of about seventy
years ago, a young man named Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) returns
to his rich family after years of schooling in England. He makes
a beeline for his childhood friend, Parvati (Aishwayra Rai),
for whom the friendship bloomed into love long ago. There is
teasing, there is wooing, there is family disapproval, there
are the complications of pride. The drama takes off from there.
We don't believe in giving away the plot, but for an idea of
the movie's tone, consider this comment from one non-Indian
during the credits: 'Boy, that was a downer.'
she said that, too, because 'Devdas' largely comes off as pulse-quickening
and richly colorful. Or maybe we're just thinking of Madhuri
Dixit, who somehow by playing a prostitute manages to cement
her standing as the female icon of Bollywood. From her fabulously
minute dance moves to the way she runs her finger down Shah
Rukh's neck, Madhuri gives 'Devdas' the lightness it needs to
avoid sinking under its own weight.
Rukh gives a solid performance, but it's best described as restrained
hardly a gushing compliment. Aishwarya Rai shows glimpses
of her lovely mischevious side, but when she retreats into her
'mature, refined' shell, her corner of the film grows cold.
And poor Jackie Schroff his loud, yakky role as Devdas'
friend is completely unneeded, and several people during the
above-mentioned screening loudly told him so.
Devdas. You might have the power to reduce Rai's character to
a zombie-like state her blank-eyed 'Devdas' sigh in one
scene makes her look like a candidate for a cult but
somehow you don't have the power to make us cry. Is it Shah
Rukh? Is it the script? We have no idea. But despite the high-priced
drama, the classic story, and even a beautifully done final
scene with Aishwarya, the movie leaves the viewer dry and removed.
is a pull-out-the-stops, show-the-world-what-we've-got, once-in-a-decade
kind of movie. We ought to be tangled in it, red-eyed and mussy-haired.
No. We stand, calmly, and make a mental note to buy the soundtrack,
and say casually to the people around us, 'Well, that was good.'
The money and talent spent on this movie should have
bought a way, way better comment than that.
reviewed by Kaya