Devdas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In a recent New York Times piece lamenting our curiously joyless summer blockbusters, Neal Gabler reminded us that the purpose of films is to give pleasure, whether they take the form of comedy or tragedy, inspire amusement or reflection. Hollywood may have forgotten this principle, but the production numbers in this 2002 Indian musical take an extravagant and irresistible delight in color, movement, rhythm, and geometric design. The title character (Shah Rukh Khan), born into a wealthy family, returns home after a decade in the UK and reignites a childhood romance with the lovely Parvati (Aishwarya Rai), whose parents are of a lower caste. After his mother pulls the plug on their union, humiliating the girl's mother in the process, Parvati is married off to a grim, widowed aristocrat, and Devdas drowns himself in booze, self-pity, and the tears of an adoring prostitute (the captivating Madhuri Dixit). The hero's breast-beating gets tiresome long before the end, and the story, adapted from a 1917 novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhye, seldom rises above melodrama. But the sets and costumes are intoxicating, and whenever the tabla kicked in, I understood why people of my parents' generation used to dream about the movies. Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed; in Hindi with subtitles. 165 min. Skokie.

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