Top of the line star cast.
Bharat Shah's DEVDAS, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is a saga of mammoth proportions, but it lacks the power to stimulate, mesmerise, captivate and enthral the viewer.
Son of an affluent zamindar, Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) opened his eyes to a world where wealth dominated his existence. Indulged he was by his lovely playmate Paro (Aishwarya Rai). It was a special childhood and it seemed only Devdas and Paro seemed to exist for each other.
The reverie was broken when elders sent Devdas to London for education. When Devdas returned, Paro's mother (Kiron Kher) proposed Devdas and Paro's marriage. But it was met with condescendingly.
Heart-broken Paro entered into a chaste marriage with a wealthy, much older man, Zamindar Bhuvan (Vijayendra Ghatge), while a shattered Devdas took refuge in anguish, alcoholism and Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit), a stunning courtesan.
Strange was the fate of Devdas. Intensely loved by two women, who were never meant to be his. One, whom he could never love and the other, whom he could never stop lovingï¿½
DEVDAS, one of the keenly-awaited flicks of the year, has finally released. And the hype and hoopla associated with the film has translated into tremendous craze for this mega venture. However, unfortunately, all that shimmers in not gold!
Innumerable directors have tackled the story of two childhood lovers facing parental opposition, going separate ways, yet loving each other. In that respect, the story of DEVDAS holds no charm or novelty for the cinegoer of today.
But the difference lies in the fact that the person at the helm of affairs is none other than Sanjay Leela Bhansali. A craftsman par excellence. A great story-teller.
DEVDAS has the budget, the canvas, the mounting that no Hindi film can boast of to date. The opulent sets, the grandiose look, the mounting and the ambience makes you gape in astonishment.
Technically too, the film is a superior product. The shot execution, the sound quality and the cinematography bowl your mind as you embark on a journey that promises the world as far as entertainment is concerned.
Bhansali also deserves bouquets for handling several sequences with aplomb. The Kiron Kher ï¿½ Smita Jayakar fiery confrontation (first half) deserves distinction marks. Ditto for the scene between Madhuri Dixit and Milind Gunaji, when the latter throws a challenge at her.
The Madhuri ï¿½ Aishwarya confrontation and the dramatic sequence soon after 'Dola Dola', when Madhuri confronts Milind, are a few instances that endorse the fact that Bhansali is amongst the best in the business.
But the film lacks the grip in totality to keep the viewer's attention arrested, which factually was a strongpoint of Bhansali's previous effort HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM. It is evident that Bhansali has, this time, taken extra care to make the frame look brilliant, but the screenplay abounds in glitches and clich?
The first half has an enjoyable mix of light moments and dramatic scenes and the interval point raises the expectations of a better and much bigger second half. But the post-interval portions fail to hold your attention and there are several reasons for it.
One, the Chunnilal track (Jackie Shroff) comes as a major hindrance in the plot. Although his significance is imperative in the script, somehow you don't take to Chunnilal's character and his presentation. He's been used as a mere prop to further the story and the lines mouthed by him grossly irritate.
Secondly, the sequences between Madhuri and SRK are far from magical. Why does Madhuri fall in love with SRK instantaneously, without any reason whatsoever, baffles the viewer. Later, Paro and Chandramukhi's friendship and making them dance together ('Dola Re Dola') seems forced.
Moreover, the second half is too lengthy and needs to be trimmed by at least 20 minutes. The 'Sheeshe Se Sheesha Takraye' song, for instance, was just not needed. Besides, the film moves at a snail's pace in this half.
Most importantly, will a theme like this ï¿½ a tragic love story of yore ï¿½ find flavour and identification with the cinegoer of today and more specifically with the youth and the hoi polloi, remains a pertinent question while watching the film.
Ismail Darbar's music gels well with the mood of the film. Nusrat Badr's lyrics are lyrical gems. Binod Pradhan's cinematography is dazzling. Dialogues are brilliant at places. The sets, props and the overall look deserve special mention. Costumes and finery are exquisite.
And now to the performances!
Shah Rukh Khan excels in a couple of sequences, but seems like replicating himself in the others. Madhuri Dixit looks bewitching but lacks the fire to carry off such a role. She goes through her role mechanically. It is Aishwarya Rai who steals the show with a performance that takes you by surprise. She dominates the film with a performance that is sure to win her accolades. Jackie Shroff hams. Kiron Kher is first-rate. Smita Jayakar is alright. Ananya, as Devdas's scheming sister-in-law, is superb.
On the whole, DEVDAS belies the expectations that one has from a film of this magnitude. Expectedly, the much-hyped film has taken a historic start all over, but it lacks in merits and most importantly, repeat value, which is so very vital to recover the colossal investment that has gone into its making.