Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tri-Dev: Movies Mirror Society

Movies, like other art-forms, mirror the society. We’ve had movies like Do Bigha Zameen which mirrors the famine ridden and zamindars dominated Bengal of the early 1950s, A Wednesday, which depicts the terror ridden common man of the 2000s and his fantasies. The plot of these Bollywood movies mirrored the then society. This is one way to get a glimpse of the society the movie is depicting.

The treatment and the acceptance of a movie also throw light on the society. So, essentially, there are two variables - a. the supply side variable, which is the plot of the movie and b. the demand side variable, which is the treatment of the plot. I recently caught up with Bimal Roy’s Devdas. Having seen Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas and Anurag Kashyap’s DevD, I could see the difference in the way the films were treated. I take the example of the three portrayals of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas to describe how the treatment of the film mirrors the society. Here, the basic plot, more or less, remaining the same, we can see the way the portrayals of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas vary with the audiences they are targeted to.

Devdas, the novel, was based in the early 1900s. Devdas, the son of a rich zamindar, was sent to Calcutta to study. In Bimal Roy’s version, which was released in 1955, Dilip Kumar was also sent to Calcutta. In 1950s, perhaps, studying in Calcutta was a ‘big’ thing which only the privileged few could afford. However, in the 2000s, when the city had long become Kolkata, studying there would no longer be considered by the audience as ‘privilege’. So, both Shahrukh Khan and Abhay Deol are sent to England. In the story, sending Devdas off to a distant land to study is used to hint at the financial and social differences between Paro’s and Devdas’ family. Obviously, going to England would underline the difference to an audience of the 2000s than going to Kolkata (or Calcutta) which would have satisfied an audience of the 1950s.

In the Chattopadhyay’s and Roy’s depiction, Paro’s family ‘silently’ decided to get her married to someone richer than Devdas. In the 50s, perhaps, it was not acceptable for the ‘lower class’ to go overtly against the zamindars. But to the audience of 2002, it made sense that Kirron Kher openly and loudly announce in the big gathering that she would get Paro married to a richer family. However, for the 2009 DevD, the multiplex audience wanted Paro’s faithfulness to be an issue rather than her financial condition.

Year 2000 saw a major change in the tastes of the audience with the outburst of saas-bahu saga – Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi Bahu Thi being a major contributor. The 2002 Devdas saw Devdas’ sister-in-law ‘brainwashing’ his mother against Paro. [Now, this may sound similar to Manthara and Kaikai episode in Ramayana – I would, however, attribute this sequence in the 2002 Devdas to the saas-bahu effect. And also, I never claimed that the saas bahu saga is original. Did I?] 1955 audience being unaware of the 5 generations of ’ Kyunki’ did not demand such a sequence. A class difference was enough for them. However, 2009 DevD did away with the saas-bahu thing – showing the decline in its ‘demand’. The hearsay about Paro’s faithfulness was enough.

The portrayal of the courtesan, Chandramukhi, was also different. In Roy’s, Chandramukhi never got a chance to ‘enter’ the mainstream. In Bhansali’s, Chandramukhi gets to dance with Paro during Durga Puja and she gets to speak about her profession, her helplessness and her exploitations by ‘zamindars of good families’ amidst a big gathering of ‘respectable people’. Kashyap’s Chanda [Chandramukhi, being too long for a 2009 audience] studies in ‘mainstream’ college. So, while 1955’s Chandramukhi didn’t have a voice, 2002’s Chandramukhu was vocal and 2009’s didn’t bother – she was part of the mainstream anyway.

There are other differences which are common across the board between movies made in different times – like costumes, dialogues, songs, etc. I admit that quite a lot of how a movie is presented depends on the director. Bimal Roy didn’t deviate much from the original novel. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has this huge expansive (and expensive) canvas. Anurag Kashyap has his realistic and crude strokes. Despite the difference in styles, we can clearly see the impact of the eras in which the films were made.


rahul s October 14, 2009 at 10:56 PM  

yes ure pretty much true.Likewise for eg in recent DON ,hero and villain are the same character.Here the mantra was the Survival of the fittest where as the earlier Don was pretty much straigtforward.Coz of this unpredicatable situvations all around us,we apprecite the element of unpredicatability in films too.

Prashant Mehta October 14, 2009 at 11:09 PM  

rahul s ji,

Perhaps. Recent DON, i guess was complementary of 'old' DON. I mean, if all didn't went right in 'old' DON, it would have made the new DON.

In the new DON, SRK used to work for a businessman and wasn't his own boss while in 'old' Don Amitabh was. This perhaps hints at the change in attitude towards the businessmen - Businessmen seem to have become more powerful.

Nethra A October 14, 2009 at 11:38 PM  

Tri Dev???? I got to see only 2 devs here.
You should have mentioned ram's aag.. :P

Avik.... October 15, 2009 at 1:29 AM  

The title made me think (as a reader) that the content will depict or show some phases of society but although the starting was a bang on it lost its importance or motive towards the middle and was completely away from the title at the end.
So I guess the title and content do not match which should not be the case in a good write up.
The attempt to compare the 3 'Dev' movies was actually done between 2'Dev's and the 3rd was hardly mentioned. The usage of year (1950,2002 and 2009)was quite irritating towards the end.
Last not the least please explain me why in almost all your write up you give the example of 'saas-bahu saga – Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi Bahu Thi'? Please cme out of this syndrome.....(a friendly suggesstion)

Prashant Mehta October 16, 2009 at 2:15 AM  

Nethra A ji,

Well, the third one is DevD, which i didn't mention much because it was way off the Sharat Chandra's Devdas

Ram's Aag. That makes me epileptic. I have not seen this movie. Only when my mind goes demented would i see this movie. You never know when it goes demented :-p

Prashant Mehta October 16, 2009 at 2:21 AM  

Avik ji,

The reason, as i mentioned in my response above, that i didn't refer to the third Dev much because it was way off the main story. So, a rigorous comparison wouldn't have been possible. However, i have mentioned the third Dev in all the points which i brought up - though i agree that the third Dev didn't get as many words as the other two.

"Kyunki..." has changed the tastes of the viewers. I cannot, but just wonder at the wonders it created.

Thanks for the candid feedback. Though i think, the title is reflective of the content, i agree about the dates - i dreaded dates in school. And repeatative dates, i agree, are very irritating.

Nidhesh October 16, 2009 at 5:58 AM  

I think the Bhansali's Devdas sucked at best. That movie should not be analyzed in terms of the year it was released. A point should be taken here that they tried to give it a feel of year 2000 but used over the top, unreal, melodramatic sets only to prove the point that the movie is based on a novel written 100 years ago. By the way, what is wrong with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I can't really relate to the dreamy ambiance in the scenes of his movies. Last I checked "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" was his best attempt to give something believable to the audience. Since than it has only been look-what-a-grand-set-i-have.
Dev D. was a very practical and a precisely relative adaption.

And Prashant as the title of post says, I think the plot of the new DON suggests that public at current times do not believe in "Good Man wins in the End" theory anymore. The problem is not the plot of the movie, it's that the way they tried to pursued the audience to take the wrong side. Showing the negative in positive light is not new. And all that for a possible sequel. And yes, the fans went gaga over the mindless adaptation. I guess you are right, movies mirror the Society.

Prashant Mehta October 17, 2009 at 1:43 AM  

Nidhesh ji,

Well, personally, out of three versions, i liked Sanjay Leela Bhansali's the most.

I agree with you that ppl are ready to accept something which is not necessarily 'good man wins'.

Nidhesh October 17, 2009 at 2:43 AM  

What to say Prshant, nice choice I guess, and I never had guts to sit 3 hours and watch the movie. Will try to watch it again.

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