Last week I confessed that I had no knowledge of Bollywood films or conventions, and thus had difficulty reviewing the self-explanatory Bollywood/Hollywood. This week I have no trouble reviewing the authentic Bollywood musical Devdas, and must confess that I may have found a new cinematic obsession. If there were more than a full pie of slices available to give this film, I would gladly give them all to Devdas. I was speechless when the film ended. I am still speechless. This will probably be a short review.
The movie is based on the famous novel that was itself loosely based on the classic “Romeo & Juliet” story: we meet two young lovers, Devdas and Parvati, who are clearly meant to be with one another, but are unfortunately cursed with families who despise each other. Devdas features a large variety of plot developments and engaging characters (it’s a three-hour movie), but we all know it doesn’t end well, right? This is grand, epic melodrama on a scale that at first makes you laugh, but soon takes hold of you and sweeps you away. Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone to find myself crying my eyes out at the end.
And then, of course, there are the visuals. Oh, such visuals! Every frame is filled to the bursting point with vibrant and colorful sets, costumes, choreography, and cinematography that makes Moulin Rouge look minimalist. Every shot outdoes the one before it in terms of eye-popping visual spectacle. This is said to be the most expensive Bollywood film ever made; every cent (rupee?) of it shows up on screen. American “event movies” use their skyrocketing budgets to pay for marquee names and special effects. Devdas should make our whole film industry ashamed of itself when something this miraculously beautiful can be put on film.
Going into Devdas, I was expecting something cheesy but pretty to look at. I couldn’t have underestimated it more. The acting is highly theatrical and melodramatic, but it’s perfectly appropriate to the style—it’s NEVER cheesy (though everyone seems to do a lot of crying in this movie). The writing is fantastic. The singing and dancing are fabulous feasts for the eyes and ears. The rich colors could not be more exquisite. The sets are simply awe-inspiring wonders to behold. And the cinematographer should be given a Nobel Peace Prize. Devdas is a little over three hours long, but I didn’t once look at my watch. If this is the kind of quality that comes out of Bollywood on a consistent basis, I’m considering packing up and moving there.