Devdas (2002) - DVD Review
By Widge - posted 03.05.03 @ 6:32 pm
Written by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali & Prakash Kapadia, based on the novel by Saratchandra Chatterjee
Released by: Eros
My Advice: Rent it.
As always, when it comes to Bollywood cinema, a warning to the uninitiated. Films of this type are long: this one clocks in at a sprawling three hours. Films of this type always involve singing, and yes--there are songs here. Good news is that the songs involved here are some of the best I've heard come out of India--and I would kill for a copy of the musical score on CD...the music is just that damn good. Films of this type always have a tendency to be big from an emotional perspective. Devdas takes the freaking cake as far as this last bit is concerned. It frankly out-operas opera.
Now, this is a huge tragedy. And one of the major weaknesses of the film is that it breaks out the Tragedy Stick and then proceeds to try to bludgeon you to death with it. By the final reel, you want to just hold up your arms and surrender: please, God, no more crying and lamenting and drinking and pain. You can have too much tragedy to where it overwhelms. This film does. Granted, if you consider the film to be operatic by Bollywood standards, then you might be able to handle it--but wow, man.
But then again, this film is big by all standards, Bollywood included. The costumes are positively mind-destroying, as stated above the music is incredible, and the dance numbers involved are large and engaging. From a production standpoint, this sucker is tops. On the acting side of things, it's a mixed bag--though that's not the fault of the actors assembled. Khan, playing the titular character, isn't doing much here...but that's because there's only so much you can do when the part you have to play involves being charming, bawling and drinking. If you want to see him with a wider range, check out something like Asoka. Here, he fulfills his function and that's about it.
Given much more to do are the two ladies in his life. Aishwarya Rai's Paro is a severely conflicted character, dealing with pride and family going up against her own desires. Sure, she spends a lot of time looking lethally beautiful, but she plays her part very well. The standout, though, would be Madhuri Dixit's Chandramukhi--a courtesan who would, under normal circumstances, never get the chance to get involved with someone like Devdas. But with his inevitable fall from grace, she wants to be the one to catch him. She is flirtatious, extremely alive and, most of all, obviously in love out to here with the poor manic sot. She gets the most mileage to work with in the story, and she excels.
Don't let the bombast frighten you. It's an incredible spectacle and it's a good film as well. Like I said, if they had tuned down the drama knob about one notch it might have flowed a little smoother--but hey, once you're driving a panel truck at a brick wall and can't stop, you might as well floor it.
The film alone would be worth checking out on DVD--and this is actually a good thing. I won't spend a great deal of time talking about the second disc of this set from Eros International. I will say, however, that the packaging (which normally I could give a damn about) is actually pretty smooth. You get the standard two-disc plastic snap case, housed inside a larger sturdier case designed to look like a book. It just oozes smoothness.
The reason I don't want to harp on the second disc is because, he said flashing his non-Indian badge, I get the feeling it wasn't designed with audiences like myself in mind. And also because there's just not a lot to talk about. The premiere footage is just a bunch of people talking about what a great movie it is and how different from everything else, and then people from the cast of Devdas saying the same thing--except throwing in bits about how honored and happy they were to be a part of it. This is nothing new--"smoke up the skirts" featurettes are par for the course, but this footage felt like it went on for days.
The behind the scenes featurette is, again, a Bollywood version of the same old thing we see here in the States: lots of footage from the film (which, if you've watched the umpteen trailers and promos, you've seen plenty) cut in with talking with the talent involved. Part of the problem with this is that some of the people they're talking to (Khan among them), will slip into Hindi (I assume it's Hindi) without warning...and there's no subtitles. So, Hindi-ignorant me, I had no idea what in the world they were talking about. Same thing with the "Best of" section--which basically has numerous scenes from other films that the three leads have starred in. None of them have subtitles either--so while some of them look quite amusing and interesting...no clue what's being said. That's annoying.
Still, like I said, I can't be too hard on the extra features (especially the ones not in English), because this set simply wasn't designed with me in mind. Thus the "average" rating for the DVD. However, don't be frightened off--like I said up top, this movie has to be seen to be believed, and is worth at least renting to catch the spectacle.