It is a well-known fact that filmmakers have often been inspired by celebrated novels and made them into movies. While some of them are official remakes, many others are suggestive of a story you’ve heard about or read at some point of your lives. Two such novels that have time and again churned the creative juices in many filmmakers’ brains were written by Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the stories of love, lies, pride and honor. Yes, I am referring to the timeless classics, Devdas and Parineeta. Written during the time of the British rule in India, these stories were set in Bengal before Partition. This is also where you get two of your favorite couples in the history of Indian Cinema – Devdas-Paro and Shekhar-Lolita. It is only when you read the two books and watch the films made on the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s literary works, is when you realize the similarity and the difference between the two stories, most importantly, the characters that became epochal.
Devdas, that starred legendary actor Dilip Kumar in the lead role, was based entirely on the book. And this was also the closest a film based on the tragic hero got. There have been not one or two but three adaptations of the film plus one neo-age story – Devdas (1936, 1955, 2002) and Dev.D, that was directed by Anurag Kashyap, in more recent times. When we speak of an inspiration, Aashiqui 2 had also given a similar air to me… probably that is also one of the underlying reasons why this film was an instant hit, especially with the youth. A similar influence was seen in Ranbir Kapoor‘s rather headstrong role as Janardhan Jakhar aka Jordan in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, who had become a ‘heavy-metal Devdas’ (as I had previously referred to him here).
Nonetheless, Dilip Kumar gave life to the King of Tragedy who finds every reason to be depressed – his pride is such that he doesn’t feel the need to tell the love of his life how much he loves her, instead chooses to go on a self-destructive spree. Yes, I am a tad verbose about my true feelings about Devdas’s character. Such grey shades have never been known before, probably never will be again, for they will seem like influences of this character who chose himself over love and in the end perished at the doorstep of his lady love. To put this in a single line, he is a character you love to hate. Shahrukh Khan is an exemplary actor all the same, however, I have to say that there are some places you just can’t replicate greatness, how much ever you try. That is why, it is totally wrong to compare Bimal Roy‘s version of the film (starring Dilip Kumar) with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version of the film (starring SRK). Simply because, every filmmaker has their own innate style, something that is usually latent until you find ways of bringing that truth out.
This brings me to Part Two of this discussion. The love story of Shekhar and Lolita. So pure, so sweet, yet intense at the same time. First the book, then the films in 1953 and 2005 – Shekhar and Lolita underwent an overhaul too in this time period. What started with the hit pairing of Ashok Kumar & Meena Kumari gave way to a hit pair of more recent times, that of Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan. Once again, here’s Bimal Roy pitted against another director, Pradeep Sarkar (who made his feature-film debut with his version of Parineeta). This story however, ends on a positive note, you laugh, cry, feel deeply for all the characters in the film and eventually get that sense of satisfaction you would get when you see ‘The Beginning’ and not ‘The End’. I am uncertain if you felt it too, however, if someone were to ask you if you knew what love was… you would perhaps use Shekhar and Lolita’s example. A love so pure and deep that all you know is what it’s like to be with that other person. It’s in their absence you feel the vacuum. In the words of Khalil Gibran, “and ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”. That’s when you would want to blindly follow your heart. For an inexplicable reason, the new-age version of the film is closer to my heart. Maybe, it was the beauty of Calcutta (now Kolkata) city 50-60 years back, captured and shown, or it was the lovely, hummable songs, or the performances by all the actors in the film, or simply the relationship between Shekhar and Lolita. I also have to admit that the love-making scene between the protagonists is one of the best I have seen in a Hindi film till date. The confidence yet the fear in Lolita’s eyes is heart-warmingly beautiful. Not to forget the complete surrender you find in the scene when Lolita melts in Shekhar’s arms.
From a singular perspective, both Devdas and Parineeta, remakes aside, are films that give you that feeling of ‘I’ve been in this scene before’. It is more empathy than simply relating with the character per se. Be it the growing-up-together factor, or the falling in love and not-knowing-it-yet factor, or simply that feeling of being complacent about your significant other… it’s all a straight line that diverges into totally different paths eventually. Yes, the two stories are similar. Yet they are so different. For Devdas and Paro, their love was never meant to be, whereas, for Shekhar and Lolita, nothing could have kept them from loving one another.
Epic love stories remain etched in one’s mind forever, hence it is obvious that you would want to use the influence whenever and in whichever way possible.
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