Devdas was the highest budget Bollywood movie of its time (2002), and is considered one of Shahrukh Khan’s greatest performances. It won ten awards at the 2002 Filmfare Awards.
These facts lead me to believe that, much I do enjoy watching many Bollywood movies, there must some element I’m missing, because it struck me a visually beautiful but self-indulgent piece making far too much fuss over a weak, useless man.
Maybe it’s something to do with the culture valuing boys more than men. Maybe it does tend to spoil those same boys. I know that India is a rough place. Most men there are not spoiled wusses. But this movie still seems to wring sympathy for someone who spends far too much time doing nothing but feeling sorry for himself and destroying himself with alcohol.
And maybe because it’s another Bollywood attempt to destroy the Indian custom of arranged marriages. In this case, instead of celebrating love triumphing, we see the tragedy that results when it doesn’t.
I do agree the original love story between Devdas and the little neighboring girl Paro is touching. And I certainly agree with Paro’s mother that they should be married now that Devdas has returned from England as a law school graduate.
In refusing the marriage with Paro and humiliating her mother, Devdas’s mother certainly did a mean, vicious thing.
Why did Devdas write the letter to Paro denying his love, which permanently cut her off from him? That’s not clear to me, but apparently it was because of a desire to please his mother.
Paro’s mother does manage to get her revenge on Devdas’s family by marrying Paro to a man even wealthier than they are, but it’s an unhappy marriage. He’s older, has three grown children.
Meanwhile, a good friend of his has gotten Devdas to start drinking. How he got through law school in England without lifting a few pints with other students in a local pub is not explained.
Then this same friend takes Devdas to a local brothel, but it’s not a grimy, seedy cheap joint. It’s an elaborately beautiful pavilion by an artificial sea. The lighting makes it into a joyful carnival and there’s plenty of room for dancing and singing.
One of the women in the brothel falls in love with Devdas. Why? It’s love and therefore beyond explanation, apparently. They apparently never have sex. He’s obsessed with Paro, and drinking to excess to stop thinking of her. He doesn’t want any other woman. But the prostitute befriends him when he’s sick, and he moves in with her. Presumably he is supporting her, but that wasn’t clear to me — especially after he’s cut off by his family.
The alcohol is killing him faster than it normally does. He’s warned that any alcohol could kill him. But when his original pal gives him a glass of wine, he drinks it, knowing it will kill him.
Then there’s the melodramatic sequence where he goes to Paro’s house to see his true love one last time, but her husband won’t let her leave the mansion.
The depth of his love for Paro is clear, but to me it’d be much more admirable if he’d carry his torch while starting a career rather than living off a prostitute and drinking himself to death.