Devdas | Chicago Reader

Devdas

165 minutes 2002

In a 2002 New York Times piece lamenting our joyless summer blockbusters, Neal Gabler reminded us that the purpose of films is to give pleasure, whether it takes the form of amusement or reflection. Hollywood may have forgotten this principle, but the production numbers in this Bollywood musical take an extravagant delight in color, rhythm, and geometric design. The title character (Shah Rukh Khan) returns home after a decade in the UK and reignites a childhood romance with the lovely but lower-caste Parvati (Aishwarya Rai). After his mother pulls the plug on their union, the girl is married off to a grim 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.

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