DEVDAS (Bimal Roy, 1955)

Bimal Roy’s long, conventional Devdas is based on a 1917 novel by Saratchandra Chatterjee. The story is depressing. Wealth and class divide childhood sweethearts Devdas and Parvati (“Paro”), sending the boy into alcoholism and the girl into a forced marriage. Extremely sick, Devdas acts on a promise he once made to Paro to visit her before his death. As she is about to see Devdas, Paro is prevented from doing so by the locking of the grounds door—the obstruction effected by patriarchal marriage, the status quo. Devdas, in any case, may already have died.
     We have here a Gone with the Hindi—except with its finish, with Paro rushing to see Devdas and a closing door canceling that opportunity, one thinks more of Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise (1945) with its descent of a final curtain outdoors, dividing lovers forever. As it bursts into dramatic movement, the end of Roy’s film wallops the heart. Regrettably, this comes too late. Primarily Devdas is a static, unhappy soap opera.
     The exaggerated acting is close to ridiculous.

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