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Devdas


This is not a character sketch of Devdas. Rather a dissection of his decisions, flaws and life in general and the cult status he enjoys. Same thing, you say? Well, character sketches are meant to be objective in view but you will not find that here. Pardon me so, for I have no patience with that man.
So Devdas Mukherjee was a spoilt brat, born in an opulent household. He spent his childhood loafing around the village as boys of his age were wont to do, with his faithful companion, Paro in tow. Why children are discredited for not having “mature” emotions, I don’t understand. Fuelled by the friendly intimacy they shared, Paro ardently waited for her Dev to return from boarding school and make her his bride. We all know what happens after that. Paro’s proposal is rejected and met with acute disdain. Paro’s mother, incensed with the insult, fixes her match with a wealthier man. 

Of all the labels Devdas wears, one of them is Lover. We believe this affection was not one-sided and Devdas loved Paro just as much. Now if the woman you love, with her honour at stake, comes to you in the dead of night and begs to be united with you, what does a man with a responsibility towards her, do? Falsify his true feelings and lie to her face because you were incapable of changing your parents’ decision? Rich men fall into two extremes: One where your wealth demands impeccable strength of character, honour and strong principles and the other where you are a weak lackey, riding on the coat-tails of your inherited credentials. Devdas is a sad specimen of the latter. Self-sacrificing? How so? Neither of them is happy with what just happened, so of what value is this sacrifice, in foresight?
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone repents for them. And also pays dearly for them. When Devdas realizes his folly and runs back to Paro, it’s too late. Paro chides him for his vacillation but extracts a vow from him, to meet her before he dies. True, he doesn’t get a second chance and you really pity the man at this point, but life is like that, at times. You’re forced to live with the consequences of a bad decision. Had he been the above mentioned Category A Richie Rich, he could’ve easily whisked her away, got married and brought her back. Surely they would’ve have relented? After all, the Great Indian Joint Family always lives happily ever after.
A man drowns his sorrows in wine and a woman’s eyes and Devdas found both. A bottle on one side and Chandramukhi on another. My heart really goes out to this woman. I have more sympathy and empathy for her than the combined pity fans, the world over, shower on Devdas. There she was, public property, not allowed to attach herself to anyone but she did. Day and night, she sat by his side, listening to him say “Paro Paro” in a drunken stupor, probably envying this woman for whom he was wasting away, knowing she would never be able to take her place. For she knew her place in society, it was a fixed one and try as you might, you couldn’t rise above it. Evidence of this fact is her narrow portrayal on celluloid. I’m sure not many people are aware that Chandramukhi was also into social service and sought to free the peasants from the oppression perpetrated on them by Devdas’ household (zamindars, you know).
Devdas’ ambivalent feelings for both women never did him any good, but on the contrary drew another heart into his gambit of pain and ruthlessly crushed it. What more do I say for this poor, wretched, downtrodden caricature of a man? You might opine that Devdas dying outside Paro’s mansion is heart-rending. In a way, it is. But it’s not the least bit romantic. Not at all! It’s just sad, incredibly sad.
This is where a character’s fatal flaw comes into play. That one trifling shortcoming which becomes the game-changer and keeps them believable. No one likes Mary Sues here! In retrospect, had Devdas been a little more headstrong, adamant and firm in front of his father, he would’ve led a completely different life altogether and not end up as an inebriated hobo before his former paramour. So at the outset the story goes like this –
Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. But boy’s parents don’t agree to marriage. Girl begs for elopement. But boy is too cowardly to go through with it. So girl marries someone else. Boy depressed. Boy meets another girl but unsure of his feelings for her. Second girl understands it won’t work out. Boy drinks himself to death.
I’m sure something like this happens every day, in someone’s life at some point in some measure. Hold a bottle in your hand and whine about a lost love, that’s the first thing they’ll call you. But I’ll give it this, if something so disturbingly destructive attains universality, then it must certainly contain some proportion of epic-ness.

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Sayonee Ghosh Roy
I humbly profess to be spoilt, pampered brat with old-school upbringing. You could let me loose in a book-store and I'd never come out, except if you lure me out with coffee and Italian food.


 

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