Sanjay Leela Bansali’s Devdas was an awful retelling of the classic with it’s caricature of Bengali culture; but as a film that showcases 4 leading actors it does make for good scope to judge screen presence. Madhuri Dixit is the best of the lot , followed by Jackie Shroff. SRK playing the titular character flounders under bad direction and Aishwarya keeps channeling her Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam self and is shallow and pretentious. I have always felt like slapping the nyakami out of Aish’s Paro and knocking SRK’s Dev on the head to turn his senses back on.
Kiron Kher is considered a powerful actor yet SLB forces her to hyperventilate , open her mouth too wide or deliver her insipid dialogues with grandeur. She started as a lovable character in the movie but by the middle she turns into a vengeful spirit, spewing unnecessary venom.
Of course, SLB wrote all his characters with so many flaws that it is hard to like or feel sorry for them. Paro is too proud for her own good and her ego gets the better of her. Strangely her childhood sweetheart is potrayed with same flaws. Devdas is an egotistical failure. He has not achieved anything in life. He is nothing without his parental wealth. In fact after leaving his parents he lives off Chunilal. You may say that the original characters are drawn up as flawed. But somehow between my reading of the original and SLB’s interpretation I found his vision makes the characters mean , vindictive, smaller. That’s the trouble of SLB’s grand canvas, the characters become small.
The standout in this is Madhuri Dixit’s acting prowress. Every frame she occupies is grand and she is grander than the backdrop. She is better than any other actors with whom she shares screen space. Her acting is sans nyakami , the eccentricities of her character become ‘ada‘ rather than Aish’s ‘nyakami‘.
Today when I re watched the movie after years I suddenly felt disappointed that Bollywood lost a powerful actor like Madhuri Dixit too early. Had she been part of the industry now she would have had her choice of roles. As the industry now has few writers and directors who would have made beautiful and poignant movies with Madhuri.
But at least SLB has left us with Devdas where you can be mesmeriesed by her.