This should have been the start of a series on “Tech’s 10X Tsunamis” but that series will have to wait until tomorrow. Because, over the weekend, I saw “Devdas”. Not since Lagaan has a movie made such a big difference to me.In Lagaan, it was the characters on-screen who triumphed in the face of adversity (a feat of similar magnitude was repeated by Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj on Saturday at Lords). In Devdas, though, it is a person off-screen whose presence is there in every frame.
Devdas, as a story, is well-known and has been made into film many times before. It is the story of a loser _ a person who has everything, and yet, loses everything he has in life and love. He meets a tragic end. The things that he does (or doesn’t do) embody a frailty, which at times seems so commonplace. There is a Devdas in each of us. Because to be something different, something extraordinary requires us to rise to the heights that the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has risen to.
At Rs 50 crores (USD 10 million), Devdas is India’s most expensive film. Bhansali has made a masterpiece, the like of which has arguably not been seen before in Indian cinema, at least in our generation. He has taken the ordinary and made it magical. The detailing which has gone into the film is astounding and it shows. The performances by Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit are par excellent. If it was just this though, I would not have talked about Devdas!
Devdas is the triumph of one person’s vision and passion, and battle against all odds. Everything that could have gone wrong did during the making of the movie from death and fire on the sets to the arrest of the producer (Bharat Shah) and the resulting financial difficulties. The industry (and most people, me included) had written off the movie “Who wants the see a drunkard who loses everything and dies?” We pronounced the verdict before seeing the product. We were wrong. As a friend put it, this is “India’s Titanic”.
Bhansali never wavered in his vision. He knew what he wanted, and he did it. What others said mattered little. His is the story of an entrepreneur. He saw a future (in the movie) which few could envision. He brought to work his incredible passion. He focused single-mindedly on making the best product that he could, one that would do India proud globally (as it did, when the movie was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May). His is a tale of a person who asked, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”
The movie leaves you a little numb at the end. But for me, the greater impact was made by the unseen presence of Bhansali. It is the story of, like Bhuvan in Lagaan, of one person who can make a difference. Only, in this case, it is not a fictional character, but one who has gone through the pain and tribulations. Bhansali has raised the bar for everyone else. He is a person who followed his heart and built his dream.
Devdas the person may have been a loser. But Devdas the film and Bhansali the film-maker are winners.