DEVDAS, broken dreams and wings of Anurag Kashyap

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA–DEV D, the movie, will be releasing on 6th February, 2009. This one novel DEVDAS by eminent Bengali writer Saratchandra Chattapadhyaya has previously been transmitted to movie medium for several times. But before getting into the movie mania let us discuss a bit about the author’s time-space in which he wrote this.DEV D

It was 1917 and India is not the one as it is now. It was a subcontinent that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh of today and the British rule had Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet under it’s control. A new class of mainly Hindu aristocrats and middle society was awakening towards the development that was happening in Western part of the world. They had seen it from distance and then gradually had imbibed some of it into their own system. They were at a loss in that crossroad of history to find an identity of suitable nature. They could not be turned into westerners overnight and the landlords or moneyed government servants could not even stand their own state of affairs as it was too outdated.

The larger society of Hindus were used to the dominance of Islamic rulers until British came and they had served them too unhesitatingly, only to get  their previous rulers at par.Then there were class divisions too. Most of the peasants were exploited to the hilts by British taxation and by it’s own Hindu or Muslim landlords. Leaders from regions who grew under British influence was trying to float a pan Indian nationalism in the model of European nation-state. They were eager to establish at least a honorable ground to stand before their new masters.

For the first time in the history of this sub-continent this vast tract had came under a single ruler and ruling system. Certain leaders had interpreted that mighty British rule was invincible and even they had find it more favorable than all the previous rules. That section had appealed to British rulers to be taken into account for part in governance and had pressed for a home rule under British commonwealth. But not all had shared that enthusiasm. Some others knew that arms and counter violence could be handy to throw away tyranny. To which Gandhi was an answer on the days political perspective and he came with non-violence and even picked up non-co-operation that was practiced in 1905 in Bengal previously by others. But in 1917 he was in Champaran movement and was developing his weapons to dominate Indian political scenario till 1947. He was yet to come.

Older DevdasGuns and Bombs were fatigued by that time and a shift had been started towards Socialistic and Communist ways from Nihilist activities. But that shift were too far from middle class youths of Bengal who were in the upfront of violent fights. They were confused, divided in numerous groups of which mostly had self serving narrow interests only. Home rule was not in their cards and violent campaigns were not doing miracles. Yet a better part of Bengali youths had been far from freedom movements too and they were desperate to get a job in British governmental system. There were few. So the competitions and heart-breaks went up hand in hand.

Now here enters DEVDAS (a Bengali name for a youth) the novel and it was an instant success. A big landlord’s son Devdas came back to his village from his study and had renewed his childhood love interest in village belle Parbati. But that was not for long. Soon he had to leave her under family pressure as Parbati’s social status did not meet his. Parbati, although shattered by this betrayal, had came to terms with reality and had married an elder widower. Devdas went off from that village only to find out Parbati later on. He tried hard to convince Parbati to elope with him and failed. His confidence was devastated and he grew into an alcoholic while booting another love offer from a courtesan Chandramukhi. He was lost, he was bloodied by egoism, he was beyond salvation. Chunilal, another agent of a wretched time, who lived on a parasitic existence and had no prick of conscience, which nature often spills from poverty and hopelessness of human escapade from de-colored life, had made Devdas his pray. He had introduced him to Chandramukhi and in return lived a luxurious parasitic life. Devdas’s father had died in the meantime and left a huge property to be destroyed only by his successor.  Devdas on sensing that his final stage was coming went to see Parbati again, only to meet death on road. He died of alcoholism. He died from the shock of ever deluding identity. He died from the lack of courage. As a final salute to destiny in desperate time-space his saga had lived therefore.

First Devdas movie was made in 1928. That was not upto the mark. Most famous adaptation in Bengali was made by Pramathesh Barua in 1935 and his cinematographer Bimal Roy had made another in 1955, which was in Hindi. There were other productions based on Devdas  too in Hindi, Bengali and Tamil languages. When Pramathesh was making that movie a wide spat between Subhas Chandra Bose (a leader of Congress who eclipsed others including Gandhi, in his steadfast demand of freedom instead of Home rule or Dominion Status) and Gandhi follower right wing leadership was open in public. Petty compromises were ruining freedom struggles and frustrated jobless youths were growing in numbers. Subhas was not that influential to stand up and move ahead against the wishes of Gandhi in those days, though he was the then Congress president. As political leaderships were failing, situations were only worsening. In this confused state of affair Pramathesh came out with DEVDAS. It had phenomenal success.

Then as India became independent and there was none to blame for her miseries it had to stand alone after 1947. All the flames of rising hopes had been put off harshly by the coming years of 1950′s and 1960′s. Joblessness, poverty, black-marketing, corruptions grew hand in hand. Frustration in social lives were showing off. No respite despite British absence was clear to the literate class. Again Bimal Roy had succeeded like Pramathesh and Dilip Kumar became icon as Devdas. A femme fatale of Indian cinema, Suchitra Sen had been Parbati or Paro (nicknamed by Devdas and her family) and she too was mind blowing. When BlACK famous Sanjay Leela Bhansali had interpreted DEVDAS in 2002, he had cast Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi. Madhuri has an uncanny similarity of eyes with Suchitra and in India Suchitra is venerated as Marilyn Monroe. Sanjay had cleverly changed Bimal Roy’s cast pattern and had Aiswharya Rai as Parbati. Shah Rukh Khan, one leading star of Bollywood had fit in the place of Dilip Kumar, who was known in Indian cinema as tragedy king. Interestingly Shah Rukh has a influence of Dilip Kumar on him and Sanjay’s tricks had nearly payed. But despite being a box-office success it had not produced anything similar to earlier releases of Pramathesh or Bimal Roy.                                  Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas

In 2002 Indian economy was looking good from the stock market point of view and there were huge number of stories of fat purses that was created due to outsourcing of US based IT companies and service sectors. Though there were no real growth in terms of classical industries and no opening for millions of jobless youths still there were hopes for it in the air. At that point of a time a devastating tale like DEVDAS had a restrained influence on the multiplex goers with thick back pocket loads.

But now the gaps are wide open. All the hidden wounds are showing. Recently the demise of Satyam Computer Service Limited tells the exact tale. It had it’s income inflated to many times than the real one and now can not bridge the gap. The flip side of phony Indian economy is showing it’s true color gradually. In this context the new DEV D (DEVDAS) by Anurag Kashyap is catching attentions.

This Devdas comes back from studies abroad like so many well off upper-middle class or upper-class youths do now and renews his love lore with Parbati. Here Chandramukhi is a student who had been exposed in a sex-scandal through MMS and now is an escort girl in after sun period of the date. Music is rocky and steamy too. A pervasive use of vocabulary that which is common in subversive social nature been coined in the forms of lyric and a sleek look is expected for the Anurag Kashyap movie.

Abay DeolAbhay Deol as Devdas, Mahi Gil as Parbati and Kalki as Chandramukhi is far from all previously star studded DEVDAS and that is why it is DEV D. But the most important deviation is in Chunilal casting. In all versions stars had played that character, though small but very important as catalyst, and they had seldom done justice to it. But this time Anurag has cast Dibyendu Bhattacharya in it. Debu is a very powerful actor who had been utilized in a lesser scale even by te likes of Meera Nair or Ketan Mehta. He is thoughtful, intense, all act no glory kind and pitch black in tone. He is a definite departure in cast interpretation and will be monitored closely therefore.

What more is in it will be known after release only! But the development of Devdas in pan-Indian pschyche demands not only a deft handling but also the near absurd depiction of destructive frustration that which is infectious. This infections go down to the people from movies and to movies from time-space of this nation of broken promises and dreams.

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MOHANDAS- depiction of a Gandhian by chance

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA –India had to pay dear for it’s independence. Other than the blood-stained partitions it had also been deprived of a Gandhi, who was Mohandas Karamchand and a lonely soldier of his battle for his truth. He was one who had transformed Congress into a mass platform for independence movement and was not above controversy on doing so.  He was beyond Congress by his political and substantial reach towards Indian people at times of need and this movie MOHANDAS by Mazhar Kamran is truly beyond that protagonist Mohandas.

Mohandas, a Dalit (lower cast in cast-strata of Indian society) youth had been a student of first rate throughout his academic career. Set in post independent Indian background his character even challenges reservation syndrome that divides the whole nation into a battle ground for general and other backward classes. Here, it is believed that Dalits and other lower cast stratum are traditionally deprived of knowledge and money power by upper casts conspiracy from the ages of Vedas (so-called sacrosanct religious texts of Hindus), though they are the real India. They are largest in numbers and poorer in gatherings. So the conscious section of this Indian society had argued and successfully achieved a larger reservation for them in educations and governmental jobs.

These exploited casts need state protection to be at par with dominant Brahmins and Khsatriyas (two leading casts who are priests, teachers and warriors of Hindu society) along with Vaishyas (cast for business people who are third in traditional respect). One day when they will be ready for fair competition the reservation system will be withdrawn by the state. V.P.Singh government had implemented Mandal commission report to protect weaker casts on the basis of above mentioned argument. It had horizontally divided Hindu, as well as Indian society at large in demands and decent. Major political upheavals had followed and the last one was seen in 2008 itself with general cast medical and business management students of AIIMS (All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences) and IIM (Indian Institute of Management)-s in the lead. In the past this reservation issue had made or broke several governments in regions and centre too. Parties, such as BSP  [Bahujaan Samajbadi (Socialist)Party], SP [Samajbadi (Socialsit) Party] are in vogue that call them messiah of Dalits or other lower casts like Yadav-s.

Kamran had started with a telling hit on that thesis on depicting this character to be on his own to achieve glory. From my personal knowledge I could not disagree with this portrayal. Because I have such friends from Dalit or SC (Scheduled cast) or ST (Scheduled Tribe) who had never taken any advantage of that reservation. But they are not those who are first generation educated and they have a good monetary support system too. A first generation educated Dalit youth on one’s own capacity is really an exception. Yet Kamran had taken this character to move through and I think to establish a farm ground to make his coming points even stronger.

That boy Mohandas had became a beaming youth and then faded away in the remote corner of rural India. He had competed for several jobs and finally had wrestled one of a colliery manager only to lose in a peculiar circumstances. He had  never received appointment letter for that job, although he had topped the list. His mystery had been pursued, quite by chance, by a local journalist Anil and then by Meghna Sengupta, a national media server. This Dalit from Madhyapradesh of India, had been cheated by the system. His job had been taken by fraudulence and the recipient was none other than upper cast Bishwanath who used to fail in examinations at their college days and was jealous of Mohan since.

Mazhar had made this Anuppur coliary a mini India. Bishwanath was living a life of luxuary at the expense of Dalit Mohandas, just the same as upper cast exploitations in Indian history since castist divide. That fraud was defended by the then state powers (here corrupt police and coal officials). That corruption by Bishwanath and his associates in return had been challenged by consciuos and aggrived media people, a local lawyar, a  honest judge. Mohandas in several stages of that battle for truth and identity (as he was ridiculosly put into test by cruel system to prove that he was Mohandas indeed) had lost and won in seasaw movements. He won the court case only to emphatically lose the final battle. His friend and lawyar had got killed and Bishwanath had finally won inspite of a jail sentence. Meghna Sengupta, when had travelled to that remote extent of India to share Mohandas’s defeat as her own too,  was at a lose. Being thrown to an unexpected and unseen dark corner of contemporary India she was utterly confused on reactions. Mohandas was refusing to identify him as Mohandas.

Just in the beginning of this complex saga Mohandas was in that state too. Then he came out to fight again on the insistance of justice seeking India. But all the measures of legal protection and reservation had failed to deliver justice at the end. This is the face of real India that is refusing to admit discriminations against Dalits and other lower casts (of racial and skin-colour based nature) in UN and is proclaiming that they are well protected here. How can they be?

Identity of Mohandas, a Gandhian by chance, who never rebells with arms, even in utter desparations of his crisis ridden life, is also a metaphorical one. After the death of Gandhi his place had been taken by some Bishwanath like politicians through fraudulent Gandhi cap and white Kurta (traditional Indian wear). Gandhi, if alive, will probably refrain India to identify him as a political leader in this muddy business that is totally bereft of his life-long love of truth.

Mazhar had subtly infused these thoughts in his movie. A main-stream cinematographer of repute had taken a substantial risk to make a movie like this. Uttam Haldar as Anil and Sonali Kulkarni as Meghna had delivered some brilliant performances to lend a good hand to him. But Nakul Vaid as Mohandas was far from impressing. Probably he had missed the subtext to be a hero in it and Kamran had a responsibility in it. He has to handle his resources better in his future projects. I found that Uttam is under rated here, though he is miles ahead from others and technically I myself will like to see someone with Uttam’s darkish skin-tone to act as a Dalit than a fair complexioned Nakul. This, to some extent, is historical and anthropological need too.

I had a viewers response after this movie’s screening in Kolkata Festival. That was overwhelming. People are crying, raging with anger and at the same time congratulating Mazhar Kamran from the core of their hearts. Now as I have been informed that they are ready to release MOHANDAS in India very soon I am glad to report this advent to my beloved Cinema Minima followers. This tale of one Mohandas is outstanding even among so-many Gandhi hyped movies of rescent times. This maker is going to be one major after the fashion of Govind Nihalni in Mumbai and Hindi moviedom.

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