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Expresso Bollywood Feature: 20 years of Devdas: How a star was born with the audacious Shah Rukh, Aishwarya, Madhuri film


You are listening to Expresso entertainment updates. This is the “20 Years of Devdas” feature brought to you by The Indian Express.

At the time of its release, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas’ name had many nicknames. This is the most expensive Indian movie ever made. It was the first Indian film to premiere at Cannes out of competition and who could forget Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai on the red carpet in a carriage. Meanwhile, trade analysts across the country commented that Banza was making a big gamble with such a high-profile film.

Ultimately, when the film premiered in Cannes and opened in India, the critical response was lukewarm. While most praised the director, production values, and major performances, many national and international critics were outright critical of the film’s melodramatic style and over-handling of the theme. But what everyone agreed on was the director’s bold vision. By the time the film ended its theatrical run, it had divided audiences in the middle — while many hated the film and labelled it the director’s worst work, others praised it as a work of eccentric genius. But one thing no one, hater or lover alike, can deny is that this film marks the arrival of an artist whose vision is unapologetically bold and daring.
In 2012, Time Magazine’s Richard Collis included Devdas on his list of the 10 best films of the millennium. Although it failed to receive an Oscar nomination (the year before, Lagan had been nominated for a third, and so far last, foreign-language film in India), it did receive a BAFTA nomination for best non-English-language film . Back home, it won a string of national and film awards. Even so far, the movie reruns on Star Gold have polarized opinions at the dinner table. One group will be overwhelmed by the production values, another group will be overwhelmed by Madhuri Dixit’s amazing performance, and there will certainly be one group that thinks the film is a grueling workout. watch. But even today, the film’s legacy continues to flourish, and one has to ask why. In a 2010 interview with Rituparno Ghosh, Shobha De commented on the most common Western perception of Indian cinema, that a famine hit Bengal. Ghosh, who sparked the conversation, was quick to quipped that for a film industry that produces Singh is King-like content every year, it’s just a convenient choice made by the West — choosing to appropriate a single image of the entire country poverty? De acquiesced to this, saying that the West actively needed to link a certain sense of poverty and conception of poverty to the developing third world.
This explains the success of films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham among diaspora audiences in the early 2000s. As more and more people choose to immigrate, the dynamism of film makes the color and flavor of our local culture less an aesthetic choice than a key character feature of the film—a convenient selling point for filmmakers. India. Karva Chauth is no longer an addition to the story. This is a necessary narrative device. The idea of ​​an Indian mother as a vengeful mother figure, combined with classical music and an effective form of poverty aesthetics, followed by the idea of ​​a Bombay slum—captured through the cinematic style of earlier Miranair films, largely enticed Americans to vote for these Movies to get Oscar-nominated audiences. Lagaan combines the commercial format of the musical with exciting stories that tell the colonial history of the entire country – making it a cradle of critical and commercial success. While the films of Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal and Satyajit Ray have become important talking points with their secondary narratives, even today Western audiences identify with the larger commercial format films. For them, the former is art, but the latter is a film that symbolizes the spirit of culture.
Devdas goes straight into the trap of this expectation. It uses a classic love story and places India’s greatest romantic male feel and deconstructs his superstar persona to bring an obsessed, self-destructive lover to life. It also uses one of the greatest beauties of our time as a coveted object of desire, as well as one of the greatest dancers in our cinematic history, to play the archetype of Golden Heart’s whoring. As the actors themselves point out, this may be a Sarat Chandra Chattopadiya novel, but it’s Bansali’s story from start to finish.

There is eternal love, obsession, frustrated love, unrequited love, and finally a sense of melancholy. While Dahl made the image of the obsessed lover hard to digest, who could have imagined that the Khan of Seasons was a creepy stalker, and Dev Das legitimized the image of the obsessive lover. This time there was no resort to physical violence, the violence was emotional. The obsession was echoed and self-destructive – in a generation transitioning to a global technological world – the ancient Indian traditions of nautankis and rasas were brought back into the mainstream.

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