July 21, 2004

Bollywood Goes Hollywood #1: Chori Chori Chupke Chupke

Any respectable collection of Bollywood film reviews must begin with Devdas, which is quite possibly the most visually stunning movie ever. This film is not representative of most modern Bollywood, but that's only because it's a period piece and has a higher production value than any other Bollywood film out there. Since it's set in the early 1900's, the women always wear exquisite sarees and the music is traditional (yet still very cool). It's dramatic, moving, beautiful and the music is EXCELLENT. A must see, all the way.

Rating: A

You can get mp3's of all the songs at bollyfm.net.

Devdas is based on the 1917 best-selling novel by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. It is the story of Paro (Aishwarya Rai) and Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan), childhood sweethearts separated for 10 years when Devdas is sent to school in England by his terribly wealthy, yet terribly mean father. Devdas returns from England to find Paro has grown into a beautiful woman and they rekindle their childhood love. Unfortunately, Devdas' parents don't think Paro's family is good enough for them because they're not as rich (although I think Paro's house is much more beautiful than Devdas') and Paro's mom came from a family of "dancing girls." I think this might be a euphemism for "courtesans". Devdas' mom insults Paro's mom to her face and Paro begs Devdas to stand by her, but he freaks out after being slapped by his father and leaves town. Poor Paro.

Devdas goes to live with his college buddy (an annoying poet) who takes him to see the most famous, most beautiful "tawaif" in all the land, Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit). After a dance number, Devdas realizes that he's made a mistake by leaving Paro. On his way out, he tells Chandrumukhi that she should be ashamed of herself and gives her his FAT wallet. Somehow this makes her fall in love with him. Poor Chandramukhi.

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Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi

Devdas returns to Paro's house (which is right next door to his) to find that Paro's mom has made good on her vow that Paro would marry into a family richer than Devdas'. Devdas tries to convince her to break off her engagement, but she's already in her bridal saree and is (understandably) indignant that he had just bailed on her. She makes a quip about being more beautiful than the moon because the moon is scarred, so Devdas smacks her over the head with a heavy necklace, cutting her forehead. He smears the blood over hair part (a symbol of marriage) and he leads her out to be married for reals. This has to be the most gorgeous wedding ever filmed (and the song always makes me cry... when I'm alone). Paro marries a governor or something, so she lives in a HUUUUGE house, but it turns out that she's a second wife. Her husband says that he's so devoted to his dead wife that he can never be a husband to her, which I guess means she'll never be getting any.

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Aishwarya as the lonely bride

Devdas heads back to Calcutta, where Chandramukhi nurses him back to health from the despair of losing his love. She makes him promise to come see her or she won't dance anymore, which makes Kalibabu mad. This is the only real "bad guy" in the film. He's jealous of Chandramukhi's love for Devdas and turns out to be the husband of Paro's new step-daughter (who's the same age as Paro). Devdas eventually shows up and Chandramuhki kicks out Kalibabu and takes in Devdas, who sentences himself to drink to death. He lives at Chandramukhi's brothel when he's in town, but never allows her to touch him. She is, after all, a prostitute and he's got pride.

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Devdas boozing it up


Paro hears that Devdas has become an alcoholic and lives in Chandramukhi's brothel, so she invents an excuse to leave the estate and try to save him. She tries to hate Chandramukhi, but they become friends when they realize how much each of them love Devdas. How can you hate a woman that truly loves the same loser as you? Paro invites Chandramukhi to her estate, but Kalibabu exposes Chandramukhi and Paro's love for Devdas in front of Paro's husband and mother-in-law, who forbid her from ever leaving the house again. However, Chandramukhi totally tells off Kalibabu and tells everyone that he frequents brothels.

I won't tell you how it ends, but that hardly matters. What really matters about Devdas is that it's a beautiful film with the most fantastic costumes ever. It puts any period piece set in Europe to shame with its colors, sets and costumes. Aishwarya and Madhuri give great performances, are amazingly hot and do some fantastic dancing. This movie really shows why they are regarded as the two reigning queens of Bollywood - they can act, they're the best female Bollywood dancers out there and they're flawless.

Drawback: Devdas. Although the film is named after him, I find him to be the most tiresome, least interesting characters. That's not to say that Shah Rukh doesn't do a good job playing him, it's just that Devdas is a... jerk. All he does is hurt people. He's constantly pushing people away and then crying about being alone. A lot of the drag-time in the film is Devdas making long speeches about his misery, a la "Hamlet." He treats himself badly which makes everyone around him worried and sad. I guess his character makes a little of an arc in that he eventually lets Chandramukhi touch him and tells her that he won't be able to deny her in the afterlife (how sweet).

Strengths: The visuals, the music and the dancing. I can't say enough about all three. While music and dancing are Bollywood's strong suits, Devdas takes it to a whole other level. As for visuals, this movie soars far above your run-of-the-mill looks-like-it-was-made-in-the-80's Bollywood.

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Comments

I have got to see Chori Chori Chupke Chupke now! I haven't myself watched a complete Bollywood movie (I am more of a Saturday, India Wave video junkie), but this one seems like a must...esp. the "lady-training scene" which does sound exactly the same as that from "Pretty Woman". One question though, when he picks up the hooker with the heart of gold...is it in a Lotus?

Posted by: Jess at July 22, 2004 09:16 AM

I'll have to watch that scene again, but I'm sure it's a Mercedes or BMW. Also, he goes to the bar where she dances (thus facilitating the amazing "Deewani Deewani" song sequence) to meet her; he picked up the older prostitute who told him about Madhu while in his car.

Posted by: Kristina at July 22, 2004 09:21 AM

Pretty Woman-esque it may be, but I've got to point this out: Pretty Woman itself was a remake of the musical My Fair Lady, which was a remake of the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, which was based on the Greek myth of the same name. If anyone should be annoyed, it's Ovid.

No one's had an original story idea since writing was invented; all the good ones got penned by the original heavy-weights of literature and since then pretty much everything has been a copy of something (usually far superior) that came before.

This goes especially movies--ahem, A Cinderella Story, iRobot, The Stepford Wives...Yes I'm talking to you.

Posted by: Renee at July 26, 2004 08:44 AM

how did a digital j post on bollywood get a comment directed at sushi movie reviews? unless i am crazy-associating. unless i am crazy.

Posted by: didofoot at July 26, 2004 09:40 AM

The comment is directed correctly. Bollywood comments (including comments about American films ripped off by Bollywood) go to DJRJ, while anime comments go to SMR. Also, you are crazy.

Posted by: sean at July 26, 2004 11:36 AM

Of course "Pretty Woman" is a rip off of "My Fair Lady" which is a rip off of "Pygmalion". What makes this movie so (terribly) great is that it steals scenes directly from Pretty Woman and is trying to copy that particular film, rather than taking from the more general Pygmalion story-line. I haven't actually seen "A Cinderalla Story", "I, Robot" or the new "Stepford Wives"... and I don't plan on seeing any of them. I really liked the orignial Stepford Wives and I hear the new version doesn't really stand up to the 70's one.

Posted by: Kristina at July 26, 2004 11:44 AM

these bollywood reviews are useful, or would be if i ever remembered to put them on my netflix. hey here i am on a computer. i guess now is the time. any further recommendations?

Posted by: didofoot at July 26, 2004 11:54 AM

c'est tres beau .j vous aime tous et surtout the king shahrukh khan.

Posted by: fatima zohra at March 2, 2006 07:24 AM

ge trouve que Madhuri dixit et tres tres tres tres belle dans toute c est foto

Posted by: samira at March 5, 2006 06:55 AM

Devdas is a wonderful movie even though dev die at the end but still I LOVE it there no such a movie has been like this i just love it the more i watch it the mor ei love it all i can say about this movie is ........i have no words for it......... its wonderful

WATCH IT

Posted by: Jawaria at May 28, 2006 04:19 PM
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