Critic's Rating: 17/5
Friday 12 July 2002
Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri, Aishwarya, Jackie Shroff
Rating : ****1/2
When Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced Devdas after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, expectations soared sky high considering the response to the film. The film reassures Bhansali`s mastery over the medium of filmmaking. The director has re-invented a classic that is sure to go down the annals of Indian cinema as another classic.
Devdas (Shahrukh Khan), the son of a wealthy zamindar is in love with Paro (Aishwarya Rai) since childhood. The two families are neighbours yet there is a distinct status difference that divides them. He is sent to London to study law by his father and when he returns ten years later, he meets the stunning beauty his Paro has grown into. Once again their love is rekindled but when Paro`s mother (Kiron Kher) talks about marriage to the family, she is humiliated in front of the entire community and shown the door. She promises that she will get her daughter married in a week to a bigger zamindar and that is exactly what she does. Devdas`s family is totally against the match and when Paro tries to explain her plight to Devdas, he tells her it is better that they move on different paths to save their family honor. Betrayed, she gets married to a much older widowed zamindar (Vijayendra Ghadke). Devdas realizes that he has made a mistake but it is too late to do anything and he lives with that regret for the rest of his life. Upset with his family, he goes to stay with his good friend Chunnibai (Jackie Shroff), who takes him for the first time to a courtesan who changes his life. There he learns that alcohol is a respite that makes him temporarily forget Paro and so he hits the bottle with a vengeance. Meanwhile, the courtesan, Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit) falls head over heels in love with him but realizes that his heart has no place for her. Filled with love for Paro, Devdas continues visiting her but always reminds her that Paro is all he yearns for. Alcohol soon becomes his lifeline and it leads to his downfall and finally, even though he starts liking Chadramukhi for her selflessness, he ends up destroying himself for the woman he loved most - Paro.
Devdas is a long film, but not for a single moment do you feel bored or let down by the director. Performance wise, Bhansali has made all the principal characters excel. Shahrukh is tailor made to play Devdas, essaying the nuances of such a complex role with elan that will take him to greater heights as an artiste. Madhuri Dixit must be ecstatic that this is her swansong - she is first rate as the courtesan and matching her step by step is the breathtaking Aishwarya Rai who has given a matured and controlled performance. Of the character cast, Kiron Kher and Jackie Shroff are praiseworthy. But overall, it`s Bhansali who deserves all the brownie points for making such a brilliant film. Well done, Bravo!