MUMBAI: Time magazine’s influential film critic Richard Corliss has selected Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’ as one of the 10 best films of this millennium.
‘Devdas’ shares the list with Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’, Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘The Hurt Locker’, Michael Hanake’s ‘The White Ribbon’, James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ and Ang Lee’s ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’.
Citing the reasons for selecting ‘Devdas’, Corliss says, “The plot, based on a 1917 novel, is good-ol’ family-values propaganda, drenched in luscious masochism: rich-boy Devdas (all-world charismatist Shahrukh Khan) leaves home, abandons his girlfriend (former Miss World Aishwarya Rai) and suffers magnificently while dallying with a prostitute (Madhuri Dixit, a hot number who had danced flamenco on men’s libidos for a decade or so before appearing in this worldly-wise role). The piece is played with such commitment that the tritest plot twists seem worth believing — and dancing to, in nine nifty production numbers. But the fervid emotion is what makes the thing sing. Beyond that, ‘Devdas’ is a visual ravishment, with sumptuous sets, fabulous frocks and beautiful people to fill them; it has a grandeur the old Hollywood moguls would have loved.”
More than triumphant Sanjay Bhansali feels vindicated. “This is the tenth year of ‘Devdas’ and somehow the film hasn’t lost its sheen. We’re now going to do a 3D version of ‘Devdas’ to commemorate ten years of its existence. When ‘Devdas’ was released it was slammed by Indian critics as being over-the-top and melodramatic. Richard Corliss had loved the film and supported it for those very qualities. Today when he selects Devdas alongside films like ‘The Artiste’ and ‘Avatar’ among his ten favourite films of the millennium I feel somewhere all the struggle that I went through to make ‘Devdas’ was worth it.”
Everywhere outside India that Sanjay travels he is singled out for ‘Devdas’. Says the director, “I remember in 2008 when I was doing the opera Padmavati in Paris I had gone to a bistro for bread. When the lady at the counter heard I was from India she struck up a warm conversation. ‘You are from the land of ‘Devdas’. I didn’t tell her I made the film. I just asked her why she like it and she said loved the opulence, flamboyance, the songs and dances. These were the qualities for which I was initially criticized in India when ‘Devdas’ was released.”
Sanjay feels melodrama is nothing to be apologetic about. “I realize it is my forte. And I love it when a western critic as emiment as Corliss endorses the melodrama. We have to stop getting embarrassed about the so-called ‘song-and-dance’ formula. That is Bollywood. And we should be proud of it. Rather than trying to make films that Westerners would approve of we should just create cinema that comes naturally to us.When I was making Devdas I never thought of what impact the content and the emotions would have on Indian or global audiences. I just did what I had to.I was told adapting a literary work was not going to work. I did what I wanted to.” Sanjay is also happy to be returning to literature after so many years. “My next film is based on a literary work and I am happy to say it has lots of singing and dancing."