Devdas Part 3: PC Barua vs Bimal Roy Part 2; Did They Blow it At the Ending?

Feels a bit silly to have two epic length posts, but these are epic movies.  Plus, there’s two of them, so two posts kind of seems right!  Although really, they are so similar in so many ways, much of the time I am just talking about them together.  Well, and the novel.  If you want to see my starting point with Devdas, check out my post on the novel and Dev D, and yesterday’s post on the first half of these two Devdases,

Really, this is just a continuation of yesterday’s post, so go back and read that if you want all the background on the connection between Barua and Devdas, and Barua and Roy, and how Barua changed the novel slightly to make it more filmic, and what the story means for Indian film history, and so on and so on.  And if you want even more Devdas background, including my basic interpretation of the novel, check out the very first Devdas post (also, read the thrilling story of how I watched 4 movies and read a novel in under 30 hours!).

I left off yesterday with Paro’s marriage.  In the novel and in the Barua and Roy films, it is very sudden.  We don’t even see the ceremony, just Paro arriving at her husband’s house.  In fact, it was so sudden that I rewound a couple of times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything!

Which is exactly how it is treated in the book as well.  There is a paragraph saying that she was engaged, the ceremony was magnificent, Dev’s family gave her jewels and helped with the wedding, and then that’s it, she’s married!  The only significant moment involved is when her best friend asks if she would like anything on her wedding day, and she says “I would like some dust from Dev’s feet to place on my head.”  Which is a great line, that for some reason isn’t included in any of the film versions (at least, none of the 4 I have watched).  Maybe because in the novel you can throw in two lines of dialogue with breaking the overall tone of description, but in a film it would mean including a whole scene of the bridal party and so on and so on?

Anyway, Paro arrives at her in-laws house.  And they are so nice!  She is greeted by a young man who calls her “Mother” and introduces her to the household, telling her how happy they are to see her, as they have had no “luck” for two years since his first mother died.  By the way, I am pretty sure PC Barua himself plays this role in the 1936 version.  At least, it looks like him.  Once again, the cast lists available online are so bad for these early films, I can’t really confirm it.

And then, straight from the novel, there is a mention of conflict, that her new stepdaughter is staying at her husband/in-laws house, unwilling to greet her new stepmother.  Paro immediately sends her new “son” to fetch his sister and, in a lovely speech/scene, hands over all her jewelry to her, calling it a “gift to my daughter” and says “Your father has a large house and needs many servants, think of me as just another one of them.”  Jamuna’s acting and Barua’s direction are okay in this scene, but Suchitra Sen is just magnificent.  They way she gently strips her jewelry off herself and places it on the other woman, the tone of her voice, it looks and sounds like a mother with her young child, a kind of weary warmth and depths of love and patience.  You can see why her new “daughter” immediately decides to stay for an additional 2 months with her new “mother”.  And it’s important to see this, Paro is not happy and bright as she was in childhood or in her last few interactions with Dev, but there is a deeper duty and patience and love that is being called on in her new life.

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And meanwhile, Dev is getting worse and worse, spending his days drinking and talking to Chandramukhi.  There is a complex dialogue scene here, where he alternately berates her and himself for speaking with her.  He also berates her customers, men who can bare to be in her presence when NOT drunk.  And then he suddenly switches to praising her, telling her that women of her class are the strongest, as they must silently endure all punishments.

I think what we are supposed to get out of this is that Dev is both wrong and right.  He is wrong to be so disgusted with Chandramukhi who is, after all, putting up with his sad heartbroken angst.  But he is right to try to encourage her to stand up for herself, to look for more than just the company of men.  And I think, that switch at the end of the scene, is supposed to be Dev suddenly having a moment of clarity, seeing what he is doing and how wrong it is, and seeing how he is abusing Chandra.

More importantly, as is said over and over again, he is doing this DURING THE DAY.  So, not during her usual business hours.  This is not Chandra working and entertaining a man, this is Dev stopping by her apartment as a friend and spending time with her.  Very slowly, Chandra’s position as a fantasy and a false woman is being pulled away, we (the audience and the novel reader) are starting to see her as more than that, just as Dev suddenly sees her clearly at the end of this speech.

And then Dev’s father is ill, and Dharamdas is sent to bring him home.  I love Dharamdas!  That’s another sacrifice in the translation from novel to screen.  In the novel, with the ability to use an omniscient narrator for exposition, they explain that Dharamdas raised Dev, he walked him to and from school every day and helped with his little hurts and sadnesses.  Dharamdas coming to him at this point is not just a random servant being sent, it is the closest person in the household going to him.  But, that doesn’t quite come through in the same way in the film version, because there’s just no easy way to convey the backstory.  Oh well.

Dev returns home for the funeral, but he doesn’t quite fit in there any more.  Roy’s film shows this brilliantly, by having him sit alone while the other mourners carry on (Kashyap did something a little similar in Dev D).  If you notice, what is so good is that Dilip is the one closest to the camera, to “us” in the audience, so we are able to sympathize with him, even if none of the characters onscreen are.

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(The camera’s in motion, so there’s no clear shot of mourners and Dev all at once.  But see those fuzzy legs in the upper left?  Those are the other mourners, loudly wailing, while Dev sits quietly)

And this is when Paro sees him again.  It’s a painful scene, but it isn’t a dramatic scene.  There is no sense that Paro escaped her household to visit him, or that anyone would think anything strange about them talking together.  It’s just painful between the two of them, because it is hard to see someone you thought of in a certain way be different.

Paro is pained to see him as a drunk, to hear stories of him spending time with Tawaifs, wasting money on jewelry for them.  Dev is pained to see her as a matron and a married woman.  Paro begs him to swear on her that he will stop drinking, and Dev asks if she could leave her husband and run away with him.

It’s not about “proving” their love, or Dev only drinking because he can’t have her.  It’s about them being different people than they used to be.  Dev can no more stop drinking and go back to being her innocent childhood friend than she can run away from her husband and children and go back to being the passionate Paro he used to know.

That’s the pain that underlines this scene, and it comes up again at the very end of it, when Paro refuses to leave until he promises, and Dev mentions “what will people think if they see us together?”, the same comment he made years earlier when she came to his room to ask if they could elope.  Only, this time, it is a joke.  Because they both can look back and see how silly those young people were, who thought a mere bedroom visit at night was a matter of life and death.  But at the same time, it is also heartbreaking, because they have lost that youthful fervor.  The same fervor that made them so passionately in love, and also so passionately out of love (it was a comment about “ruining her reputation” that made Dev so angry he struck her with his cane in the last segment).

But they can’t quite leave their youth behind them.  Paro begs him to come to her and let her care for him, as she has no one to care for.  And Dev admits that he has ordered jewelry made, but has not given it to anyone, and offers it to her.  Of course, Paro ultimately doesn’t take the jewelry, and Dev doesn’t go to her to be cared for.  It’s a gesture, but they know it is too late to follow through.

(Think of it as kind of like this scene.  In fact, if Dev and Paro had both survived and bumped into each other in their 70s, I bet they would have spoken like this, laughing about the folly of youth they can barely remember, rather than still being pained by the contrast with their dull present)

By the way, watching this scene and the earlier ones where Paro interacts with her new husband and children, I had to wonder what would have happened if Paro’s husband wasn’t quite as old.  That’s one of the changes Kashyap made, or rather, he made her husband a 40 year old of the 2000s rather than of the teens.  Dev D‘s Paro has a happy and fulfilling sex life with her husband, and while she still comes to Dev when he calls, she is able to walk away just as easily.  Dev D also makes the undertone of this scene explicit, as they trade comments of “I never saw you for what you are”, Dev being disgusted with her as a trite middle-class housewife, and Paro being disgusted with him as a dirty addict in a dirty hotel room.

There are so many Indian films with the plot of a woman eventually learning to give up on her first love after experiencing married life, from Kabhi Kabhi to Jeet, and I really think they are accurate.  It’s partly a fantasy, sure, that the arranged marriage will always work out.  But it’s also reality, that the fire of youth burns out, and it’s easy to come to care for a kind person you share a life with.  And Paro does care for her husband, and her children, and her home.  It’s just that one small part of her, the passionate love part of her, that is unfulfilled.  Sex, essentially.  Well, sex and all that comes with it.  The uncertainty, the romance, the tingles and flirtation, everything.  Paro has set that aside and grown old before her time, while Dev is living only on that, refusing to make a commitment, to grow up, to give up on the pain and passion he felt when he was with Paro.

(I don’t know how Bhansali got it so clearly in Hum Dil, and then lost the concept of outgrowing a youthful love entirely when he got to Devdas.  It’s even the same actress playing the role!)

When Dev returns to the city, having seen Paro for what she is now, he also suddenly sees Chandramukhi for the first time as a real person.  Both Roy and Barua do a great job with the set design for this scene.  It is the same set we saw her in before, when it was covered with luxerious cushions and bedding, and now it is stripped bare.  There are even clean spaces on the wall where pictures used to hang.  And just like the room, so is Chandra stripped bare.  No jewelry, minimal make-up.  But more importantly, she is finally open and practical about the details of her life.

What frustrated Dev in their first scene is that she refused to speak of money, to answer his open question of whether she took money to spend time with men.  Her very delicacy felt indelicate.  But now she has no such barriers.  She tells him baldly that she is retiring, she has sold everything she owns and invested her savings, some 900 rupees.  By the way, so far as I can see (and my numbers may be off), 900 rupees would equal about $200,000 today.  So, Chandra made a very good amount from her work.  But at the same time, she can’t exactly retire and lead a life of leisure.  She won’t starve, but she is making a considerable sacrifice.

In the novel, it specifies that she invested the money with a local grocery store, they will send her 20 rupees profit every month (so, about $20,000).  In the movies, both Barua and Roy, they just say she gave it to a moneylender to invest.  Either way, the point is that she is both savvy about her money, and both limited and unlimited in her options.  Dev, if he wants to invest funds, can buy land, start a business, do all sorts of things in his position as an upperclass man.  Chandra only has the option of the businesses on her street, a grocery or a moneylender.  On the other hand, I bet lending money to a money lender who is known by Tawaif’s gives a better rate of return than any of the more “legitimate” businesses Dev might have access to.

But 20 rupees a month isn’t enough to live on in the city, so she is buying a small house and moving to the country to get buy.  Again, I like the very practical and sensible attitude here, no agony over leaving her rooms or friends, just coming up with a plan and sticking with it.  And I like that she waited to see Dev before she left, but she isn’t trying to put anything on him, or make him feel guilty, she just wanted to say good-bye.  No drama, no regrets, the opposite of the last scene we saw.

And Dev doesn’t feel guilty.  He feels caring.  Chandra tells him she understands why Paro loves him, and that she has sympathy for her, thereby revealing her own feelings.  But she does it in a way that places no guilt or responsibility on Dev, saying she is only speaking for Paro, not for herself.  And Dev responds by sincerely offering to help her in anyway, if she is ever in trouble, to send for him.

I wish I could have seen this scene without knowing the rest of the story.  Or rather, been built to this scene without knowing the rest of the story.  Having Chandra appear to be a simple prostitute, ready to take abuse, there for the “hero” to play with and monologue at, and then suddenly having her burst upon us as a real person with real concerns and a true love for Dev, just as she is bursting upon Dev in this scene, that is lovely.  But, of course, it’s impossible to have that effect, because the “Chandramukhi-Dev-Paro love triangle!!!” angle has been so played up, it’s impossible to be alive in the world and not know about it.

(To see this song, and think that is all there is to her, the “item girl” in effect, who will distract the hero from his misery for a brief while.  And then to meet her again in a later scene and learn how much more there is to her.  That would have been wonderful!)

After Dev and Chandra’s scene, we suddenly jump years into the future.  After Dev’s father’s funeral, in both Roy and Barua’s version, there was a casual scene in which it was mentioned that Dev would accept a much smaller portion of the legacy as his brother has a family to take care of.  It’s not a dramatic sacrifice on his part, and his brother isn’t evil for suggesting it.  It’s just that Dev is kind of weak and easily taken advantage of.  It’s another scene showing his lack of heroism, how much people would look past the younger son that wasn’t even smart enough to secure his legacy.

But now, in the “future”, Dev has already run through his money and is constantly begging his brother for more.  It’s not that he is such a complete spendthrift, it’s that he was too weak and short-sighted to realize that he should have requested more money to begin with.  And now he has so little pride, he is willing to come home and beg for scraps whenever he needs more money.  Basically, he’s a weak man who is now a full-fledged addict.

Meanwhile, Paro has become a full-fledged matron of her house.  Barua and Roy show this in slightly different ways, both faithful to the novel.  Barua chooses to show a family discussion, in which it is mentioned that Paro is spending a fortune endowing charities.  Paro’s daughter-in-law, following the discussion, argues with her husband over the household management.  Her husband runs to his “mother” for advice, and Paro promptly offers to let her daughter-in-law run the house from now on for the sake of familial harmony, and because she was never cut out for household management.

Barua, on the other hand, shows the wedding day of Paro’s son.  After the bride arrives, she is told that beggars have gathered outside the gate, asking for clothes.  Paro immediately orders that they be taken care of and clothes be given, and her son praises her generosity.

Two totally different scenes, but the main point is the same.  Well, three points.  1) Paro is no longer the bride of the household, she is the older mother-in-law. 2) Paro has found some form of happiness in spending her husband’s money on charities. 3) Paro continues to be adored and respected by her entire household, to the point that her “son” is willing to break his marriage if his wife disrespects her.

Both Paro and Dev have continued further and further on their separate paths.  In some scene, I can’t even remember when, Dev refers to her as “choosing marriage”.  It seems a bit petty, considering that she didn’t really have a choice about it.  But by this point, she does have some choices, and she is continuing on her path as a respected older matron with no deviations.  Just as Dev is continuing on his path of dissolution and illness.

That’s why we need the time jump.  To imply all the little choices and moments that must have taken place in these past 2 years for them both to have reached these points.  And to make it shocking when we find out how badly Dev is doing.  This is when Paro’s old friend writes her, telling her that she almost didn’t want to write, but she just ran into Dev, and he is really really not doing well.

Reading this scene in the novel, it sounded exactly like what you would say to someone if you ran into their old friend on the street and he was clearly an addict.  Which, I mean, that’s what it is.  It’s harder to convey in the film versions, because you can give Dev an unshaven face and sad eyes, but you can’t really do the full effect of skin and bones body and nervous energy and just “wrongness” that you get from a drug addict in real life (not that I know a lot of drug addicts, but I definitely know the people I shouldn’t sit next to on public transit).

And Paro goes to see him, and can’t find him.  In Barua’s version, he has a lovely sequence where you see Chandra walking to his family house, across the muddy fields, while Paro rides in lonely splendor in her palanquin.  The woman pass each other on the road but don’t speak, not realizing the connection they have between them.  It’s a beautiful sign of how all humanity is connected, even if it may not appear so on the surface, this lovely high class lady and this woman trudging through the mud both with the same goal.

(So much lovelier than some made up “Dola Re Dola” meeting)

Of course, Chandra is the one who achieves the goal.  Because Dev is now too far gone for Paro to ever reach him.  Their paths have diverged very far from their childhood days together.  And so Chandra finds him, drunk on the streets, and brings him home with her, even though he does not recognize her, blindly following her just because she is kind to him.

There is a lovely character moment here, really the peak of the entire Chandra character, when Dev awakes and admires her room and her jewelry.  And Chandra says the jewelry is fake, and so is everything else.  She had to set it all up, just to find him.  I love how Vyjantimala plays this scene, kind of cheerful, like “isn’t this a good joke?  Can you believe how much work people expect me to do just to have a room in the red light district?”

It’s the peak of the Chandra character, to show how all the jewelry and furniture and fine clothes, all of that is just the setting that makes her appear a certain way.  It can be bought and sold, and it can be faked.  The important part is the goal at the center of it.  Before, she was acting in this way to make money, now she is doing it all just to find Dev.  And, the novel makes clear, she does still have the choice of setting up a “real” house.  There is comment about how she was “still beautiful” and would not have a hard time finding patrons.  But she has no interest in that any more, so she just puts on the fake clothing of a courtesan without letting it touch her heart.

That’s why, when Dev awakens from his drunk, he truly “recognizes” her.  He says he “knew her voice” the night before, but now he sees her and actually knows her.  And as she slowly nurses him back to health, he comes to fully understand her.  It’s at the end of this time together, that he offers his contrasting description of her and Paro, ending with Paro being beloved by all and Chandra only being beloved by him.

This is Chandra’s happy ending.  Not in a “the crowning glory of a woman is the love of a good man” kind of way.  Or even a “Devdas is so awesome, we should all worship him!” way.  Just that someone sees her, truly sees her, and loves her.  After a life spent selling a false vision of herself, she can reveal who she truly is, with all the economizing and effort that goes into it, and have someone who loves her just for herself.

And that was the purpose of this sequence, not to save Dev’s life, but to keep him alive long enough to pay back his debt to Chandra through his sincere appreciation and love.  That’s why his leave-taking of her is so casual.  This isn’t about choosing one woman over the other as his “true love” (blech!), it’s about seeing and appreciating both women for what they are, doing something for them.  And once he has expressed his gratitude, it is time to move on, free her to go back to her regular life in the village, and for him to find a new way to pass the days until he dies.

It is also clear, at least to me, in the novel and both the Barua and Roy versions, that Dev is doomed no matter what.  He’s already dying by this point, Chandra’s nursing just gained him a few more weeks or months (“He had a premonition that his final wanderings were about to begin”).  It’s simply a matter of deciding how he wants to spend them.

Which is where Dharamdas shows up again.  Just as Dharamdas was there for his childhood, doing all the boring everyday jobs of caring for a child, so is he here at the end, to nurse him through his last weeks.  When Chandra expresses concern that he not be “alone” after he leaves her, it isn’t concern about some kind of stupid heart-hurt loneliness, it’s concern because he needs full-time care.

(Nazir Hussain plays Dharamdas in the 1955 version.  He also played Waheedaji’s father in Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam, a Devdas-like movie but with a slightly happier ending.  Well, for “Dev”.  “Paro”s end kind of sucked.)

So, that last bit is basically the same whether we are talking about Roy, Barua, or the novel.  But the very end of the film is dramatically different in Roy and Barua versus the novel.  I already talked about how Barua invented the image of the train journey that never ends, traveling through India without every really touching down.  He also invented the idea of Chunnilal re-appearing at this point, a figure from Dev’s past, another westernized lonely traveler, who uses their old connections and memories to entice Dev to drink.

In the novel, it is much less random and fated:

Shortly after his [Dev’s] arrival at Lahore he somehow managed to get in touch with Chunnilal. They were happy to meet each other and talked for a long talks about their days in Calcutta. But in Chunnilal’s company Devdas again started drinking, and having broken his resolve not to touch liquor he was unable to exercise any control over himself.

Forgive me for disrespecting Sarat, but I like it better in the film!  I like the idea of these two lonely figures traveling through the world on trains that never stop, clinging to each other as one anchor in this sea of uncertainty.  And that sense of old times and nostalgia, leading Dev to drinking.

Although both film and novel have the same point in bringing back Chunnilal.  Chunnilal gave Dev his first taste of liquor, of women, of modern city life.  And now here he is at the end, to remind Dev of how it all started, and to bring it full circle by giving him his last drink, just as he gave him his first.

Either way, Chunnilal’s visit has immediate effect, Dev becomes ill again and is clearly near the end of his life, thus Dharamdas’ suggestion that they return home/to his mother.  It is also at this point that Dev has the great dialogue, “‘I have my mother. I have an elder brother. I have Parvati, Chandramukhi, Dharmadas. They are all mine, but I am nobody’s.’”

This is the real tragedy of Devdas, that he has never been able to fully give himself to one other person.  Or rather, to demand that another person take him.  When presented with conflict or effort, whether it was demanding his place as the second son of his father’s house or Paro’s hand in marriage, he had chosen to efface himself, to disappear.  And now he is disappearing again, riding the trains of India, not even willing to ask for help or go home as he is dying.

And that, arguably, is the only thing that makes him noble, that he is a sick and distressed person, and yet he can never bring himself to ask for help.  It can feel like all we see is people helping him, but that is because we are just jumping in and out of his story.  No one is really cruel or evil, that would be to take too much notice of him.  But his family and the people of Calcutta are willing to let him slowly die of addiction for years before Chandra tracks him down.  Paro, thoughtlessly, gives him a broken heart and moves on with her life (at least, a little bit).  And now here he is, listing off all the places he could go to be welcomed and cared for, but not willing to go there.

Dev is a difficult, lonely, weak, unloveable and unlikeable person.  But even someone like him, sick and addicted, has people who love him.  And the only noble thing he can do for them is to let them go about their lives, unaffected by his misery.

(This is also of course Shahrukh’s plan in Kal Ho Na Ho, to keep it all inside so everyone else can be happy.  And Rajesh Khanna’s in Anand, but it’s Kajol’s birthdayKajol’s birthday, so I’m using the Kal Ho Na Ho video)

Anyway, ending!  Barua came up with this whole “ooooo, they have a special bond!” thing, and you know what, I kind of hate it!  It was his idea to have Dev wake in the middle of the night and cough up blood in the compartment sink (a shot that is almost identical in Barua, Roy, and Bhansali’s versions).  And Paro “senses” it.  In Roy’s version, Paro collapses while carrying a tray of offerings.  I kind of like the edit, going from Dev’s lonely and dark compartment, to suddenly seeing a group of lovely women carrying trays surrounded by their family, a shocking contrast.  Barua does it in an even more lovely fashion, having Paro alone, and then falling, and suddenly people flying in from all sides of the frame to check on her.

I like that, the contrast between Dev’s lonely life, where he is free to travel the world and do what he likes, but is alone and unloved.  And Paro’s life, restricted by her house and responsibilities, but surrounded by dozens of people who adore her.  What I don’t like, is the idea that the point of this whole thing is to show that he and Paro were Meant To Be.  It’s not called “Paro and Devdas”, it’s called “Devdas”, his death should be just about him, as it was in the novel, not about her!

From Dev’s side of thing, once he stumbles off the train, the film follows the book fairly closely.  He wakes in the night, sees that they are at a station near Paro’s house, and stumbles off the train without waking Dharamdas.  He pays a bullock cart driver to take him to Paro’s house, in the rain, paining at every bump and jolt.  Both directors succeeded in conveying a sequence both of great beauty and great pain.  The image of the small graceful bullock cart with the single lamp swinging underneath it is lovely, and gave me odd flashbacks to Thenmavin Kombath.  But then there are these terrible close ups of K.L Saigel and Dilip hacking and coughing and shivering on the inside.

In the novel, this is how Dev dies:

The driver lifted him and placed him on a paved platform under the tree. With great effort Devdas brought out a hundred rupee note from his pocket and gave it to the driver. Then he sighed and lay down. Soon, he stopped breathing. It was the end of Devdas’ life. 

It is only the next day that crowds gather, that Paro’s son comes out to look at the body, that he is identified.  And then taken away.  It wasn’t until the evening that Paro has the first inkling of what has happened, hearing that there was a body in front of the house.  And, after learning the name, running for the gates, which her concerned family behind her.  And finally, fainting before she can reach them.

In the films, of course, this is much more dramatic.  Dev breathing his last as everyone gathers to watch, but not help.  Paro getting closer and closer to knowing he is there, before finally making a run for it just as he is breaking his last.  And then her family ordering the gates closed and she runs for them, cutting her off form him forever.  Lovely images, very dramatic.

But, they aren’t supposed to be!  The idea is that Dev and Paro, who were once so close they were like one person, are now so distant that he can die in front of her gate without her knowing about it.  That Dev is finally making an effort, a superhuman effort, to fulfill the one tiny promise he was willing to give to someone, the one small bond he had to the world.  Paro begged him to stop drinking, and he compromised by promising to come to stay with her at least once before he died.  And now he wants to leave the world owing nothing to anyone, so he has to go to her.

Notice, he also thinks of Chandra at this moment, and puts a nice period on their relationship.  Here is how the novel describes it, in the films it is a flashback/voice over of his mother and then Chandra:

His mother’s kind face came before him. How tender was that face, how sacred! And Chandramukhi? She, whom he had once despised as a sinner was now on the canvas of his mind seated by the side of his mother. He would never see Chandramukhi again. There was no one to inform her of his death. ‘God knows how long it would be before Chandra hears of my end,’ Devdas mumbled. 

But notice, part of his concern is that there is no one to connect them, no one left to even tell her he has died.  That same tragedy is supposed to be the suffering of Paro.  That Dev died outside her gate while she slept, that she went about her day uncaring and unnoticing while his body was taken away.  The barrier between them is not physical, there are no ornate gates being slammed shut between them, it is stronger than that.  Just as she eventually forgot him in childhood, when he stopped writing and visiting, so has she stopped thinking about him now.

Not that Paro is unfeeling, or even happy while he is sad.  Just that she has become a different person than she was in childhood, just as Dev has, and Chandra has become different from when he first met her.  They can’t connect any more, can’t relate.  Except, at the moment of his death, Dev returns to that simple boy who went to Paro when he needed something, and Paro returns to that little girl who’s life was ruled by Dev.

Which totally doesn’t come through if you spend five minutes on their magical mystical connection, with her sensing his hurt and hearing his voice and running to the gate just as he dies, and so on and so on.  Instead of going straight to him dying alone and his body being ravaged, while she is oblivious in her mansion!  (Right after reading about Dev’s body being fought over by jackels: “Parvati was vaguely aware of the excitement outside the mansion. But she did not pay any attention to it because she had become indifferent to what happened in the estate.”)  So, yeah, Barua, kind of mad at you for creating this indelible ending which every version since (except Dev D) has felt the need to re-create.  But otherwise, love you!  For figuring out how to film this thing and providing a template that Roy was able to take and turn into something ever so slightly better.

 

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10 thoughts on “Devdas Part 3: PC Barua vs Bimal Roy Part 2; Did They Blow it At the Ending?

  1. One question for you: Did you read the full length novel in translation, or an abridged version? I ask because I ordered the English version for an American friend right after Bhansali’s Devdas released, and the version I got was abridged. Which was extremely annoying, because the novel itself is so short that it is usually described as a “novella.” Anyway, the reason I raise this question is that in the novel, there are quite a few mentions of Devdas sending Chandramukhi money after she moves to the village, to help with her living expenses. So he has been keeping in touch with her, and providing for her, as he had promised.

    Which brings me to the second point I wanted to mention. You’re completely off on how much money Chandramukhi had saved. I don’t know what kind of inflation and currency exchange rates you used for your calculation, but it can’t be correct. Consider that, at today’s rates, 1USD = 60 INR, so to have $200,000, she would need Rs.12,000,000, which is more than 13,000 times 900 rupees! There simply wasn’t that kind of inflation in India over the last century.

    Anyway, the point is, 900 rupees was certainly more than most poor people would ever see in their lives, but it probably didn’t even cover one month’s expenses for someone like Devdas in the city. That also tells you how little actual money a working courtesan makes. And certainly 20 rupees/month wasn’t enough to live on, even in the village. There are descriptions in the novel of Chandramukhi going without food to manage, and her kindly neighbors insisting on giving her something to eat, at which point she finally gives up her pride and writes to Devdas for help, which he immediately provides. And as I said above, he sends money to her regularly, without being asked, from then on, to make sure she is taken care of. In fact, one reason he runs out of money is because he is spending it on her. That is, he is not willing to economize by abandoning her, even when it means giving up his own comforts.

    Sorry to go on at length. Despite the dislike you and many others have for the Devdas character, his story is a tragedy because he followed all the rules. If he had violated them and made a push for himself at that one point in his life, it might have been all very happy. But he didn’t, and the consequences of that haunt him for his entire life. Of course you don’t get any sense of this in the filmi versions, which all, as you said, insist on seeing this as some kind of epic love story between Devdas and Paro. Almost all of Sarat’s novels are about the “lowlifes” of society, people who are oppressed and downtrodden and generally despised by everyone, to show the hidden strength of character in them which gives them dignity through their difficult lives.

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    • Darn, it sounds like I did get an abridged version! The one I had mentioned that Dev and Chandra wrote regularly, but that’s all, no more details. And that she went to look for him after the letters stopped.

      But it sounds like I got the main point anyway, since you agree with my feelings about the Devdas character, how “he can never bring himself to ask for help” and how Dev, Paro, and Chandra are supposed to represent people who are overlooked by the rest of society, but have so much more to offer than appears at first glance.

      Anyway, I still don’t like Dev! I always find characters irritating who are more about thought and passivity than action. Hamlet, for instance, bugs me too! I just want to grab those people by the shoulders and shake some sense into them!

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