26 comments on “I wish that when I was a kid, I could have met wandering musicians who would just walk up to me and sing this beautifully…

  1. Hmm… I was kind of taking the word of Corey Creekmur, who wrote an article over at Philip Lutgendorf’s site, saying that the Barua/Saigal version was the best:

    http://www.uiowa.edu/~incinema/DEVDAS.html

    I had also enjoyed Barua’s film Mukti, which I did see, with subtitles and everything (which starred Kanan Devi, who was supposed to star in his Devdas, but for some reason she couldn’t come through for that one).

  2. Mmm. Have just been listening to that while I went about doing some other work, and have decided I’m going to replay once I’ve written this comment. Thank you for that, Richard! I love that song.

  3. Love your approach in reviewing the film. Short and clearly to the point.
    This song is beautiful. Naaz’s innocent expression, the melody – all bring a lump to my throat.
    The film is dark and gloomy, yes.
    I laughed at “Oh, how I love to watch films in which everyone is more miserable than I am!”

    Glad you watched it without waiting for Saigal’s Devdas (haven’t seen it myself), because I think it’s a masterpiece though a lot of people avoid it because of all that gloom.

  4. Oh this song is from a wonderful Devdas. I love it so much that I read the novel (to which it is quite faithful) and then a study of Saratchandra’s ideological agenda (which was less pleasing.) The relatively recent star-vehicle blockbuster (a genre to which I am not opposed) is wretchedly done – despite Madhuri Dixit and a nice drunk turn by Jackie Schroff. I think there are many old b/w versions of Devdas but not so easy to find. It is hard to imagine a better filming than this – but I like a world with the possibility of more wonder (even if sorrowful). Maybe that is why I like Bollywood so much – some bit of wonder is always just around the next frame.

  5. Just LOVE this song. And you know what, I always wished the same thing, when I was small. In fact I still wish it, but don’t dare to put it in words.

  6. Pacifist, thank you for the good words re. my “approach” in reviewing this. It’s an “approach” that I took because I no longer have the time or energy very often to write a real, full film review, but it is nice to see that you appreciated it for being “short and clearly to the point.” :) And, oh, no, I don’t mind gloom, not at all – as I think everybody should know by now…

    Ann, thanks for the interesting comments. It is impressive how much you research the things that you like in Hindi films. As you know already, I tend to do research to find influences on music, but I am a little lazier about looking for literature that is the source of films. (Although, ironcially, I have done a lot of writing – including fiction – and once concentrated on literature, back in college, but I never studied music, tried to sing, or properly learned a musical instrument. :) )

    I admit, I don’t know much about Saratchandra Chatterjee, but I just looked at Wikipedia and noticed a trait of very not-nice anti-Muslim communalism. (And while we’re talking about 1955 Devdas, I had a similar feeling when I learned that Vyjayanthimala much more recently became a politician in the BJP. Although I don’t think she’s as involved in their politics as Hema Malini… When I want to appreciate either of these actress-dancers (and oh, how I do sometimes!), I have to try to forget what I learned about their political involvements.) However, I have also noticed that Saratchandra is appreciated for his opposition to (other) forms of social oppression. I also happened upon something that looks like an article from a Marxist-oriented site, praising his revolutionary qualities. I will have to get back to that – but it will take a while to get through it.

    And I agree with you re. your comment that in Bollywood, “some bit of wonder is always just around the next frame”!

    …Though, no, I didn’t think there was much wonder in the 2002 Devdas, except for Madhuri Dixit. I am trying to remember if I ever tried to watch a copy of the whole film… I at least saw some scenes a few years back, when I was just getting into my Bollywood obsession, and I couldn’t muster much interest in it.

    Harvey, glad you love that song too!

    Regarding not liking the plot of Devdas… I don’t know if I’m a hundred percent crazy about the plot myself, but that’s because of the characters. It is sometimes a bit challenging trying to sympathize with Devdas, being that he is an alcoholic and often a bully and was born into privilege :) , but I guess that all contributes to the irony of the torment that he goes through (and it made things more challenging for the novelist and all the filmmakers, which usually resulted in more interesting work). Also, don’t the women seem a bit… masochistic? I can see this film as containing some of the not-so-great gender politics that I’ve often seem people complain about re. old Indian films… But obviously, a lot of women like this film.

    I thought, what film would be kind of like Devdas but with somewhat different kinds of women and a nicer hero (or anit-hero) who wasn’t an alcoholic, didn’t come from privilege, and wouldn’t hurt a fly… And the first thing that came to mind was Anmol Ghadi! But for some reason, women just don’t seem to like Surendra in Anmol Ghadi as much as Dilip Kumar in Devdas. And I guess Devdas has some other advantages in terms of literary and cinematic quality, at least by most people’s standards.

  7. Maybe the reason why I don’t like Devdas is that I just can’t relate to him. The women in Devdas are masochistic but all the same I find them to be mature than Devdas and at times even practical, but their love/pity for Devdas pulls them down.
    It is interesting that when you search for a better version of Devdas you come up with Surendra of Anmol Ghadi!
    I still don’t know what is the fascination fo Devdas about, maybe that is the key to the success of Bhansali’s Devdas. He filled it up with so much opulence that no one noticed Devdas’ despondency. ;-)
    What I miss in Devdas is the critic of the social hierarchy and how it destroys three lives. It would have been a golden oppurtunity to do it.

  8. vis a vis social critic. from what i read about saratchandra, the author of the novel ‘devdas’, and of his other novels, he was in some way serving the cause of indian self fashioning (so characters representing traditional indian ideals are the better characters and indians who have been enculturated to or have embraced english ways of life are the worse for it). in this context, he also draws on an indian tradition of giving up attachments. this is interesting because in the radha krishna story in one tradition they consumate their union and in one they do not (if i understand correctly). ghandi, evidently, as part of getting people to selflessly dedicate themselves to the cause of indian independence emphasized the tradion of giving up attachments. at the time certain religious leaders also emphasized this tradition. So the women in devdas, from very different stations in society, as traditonal women see the dutiful path of their lives – arranged marriage for one and celibacy for the other – and fulfill it even at having to personally give up much. devdas, however, is confused and lost. he has no comfort in honoring society and his family and he has no comfort in breaking with tradition.

  9. Ann, once again, thanks for the good background info. But regarding those women, it’s one thing to make a sacrifice to pursue the dutiful path, but I think they go a bit beyond that in places… Like when Devdas hits Paro in the forehead with a stick in order to give her a scar for life and she ends up cherishing the scar that he’s given her… Or when Chandramukhi ends up only loving Devdas more every time he insults her… I think the women in this story really are masochists. :)

  10. Mister Naidu, thank you…

    And I guess this is the song you were thinking of?

    I’m not sure I see that close a similarity, but I’m going to listen to both again in the future, and maybe I will then…

  11. ahhh Richard you are sensitive to issues of violence. how do we critique questions of violence towards women? shall we count the ways? or what constitutes abuse? and whether women in abusive relationships are necessarily masochistic (ie neurotically enjoy pain and humiliation) or whether their behavior is something else. this is far outside the universe of the movie – which accepts routine violence towards women and expects people to rise above their suffering for a greater good – social or metaphysical.

  12. Thank you, Ann. Well, this just all goes back to what I said seven comments ago, when I said, “I can see this film as containing some of the not-so-great gender politics that I’ve often seen people complain about re. old Indian films.” :)

  13. yes – but one of the things i like is the explicit addressing of these behaviours. so many films work to create more sympathetic understanding of rape victims, widows, orphans, unintended pregnancy… and for a cradle song which combines some of these – the one from “Dhool Ka Phool” which is really heartbreakingly beautiful. Hope I got the title correct – I get vague on titles.

  14. Ann, yes, of course, there were many films that addressed these issues.

    I was thinking, actually, about a song in a 1958 movie in which Vyjayanthimala again played an unhappy prostitute who would eventually choose to leave her vocation, also inspired by her love for a man (played this time by Sunil Dutt). That was Sadhna (1958). There is the song “Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko,” with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi (maybe you know this one?), which contains enough complaint about women’s condition to be the perfect antidote to the relatively silent acceptance in Devdas. Unfortunately, the YouTube copies with subtitles have been removed, but I have transcribed the translation from my DVD (which doesn’t always read so perfectly – but the meanings are certainly there)…

    Woman gave birth to man,
    and he gave her the flesh trade.
    Whenever they felt like it,
    they trampled on her or discarded her.
    Woman gave birth to man.

    She is weighed in dinars, or sold in open markets.
    She’s stripped in the court of lustful men.
    She’s that ill-reputed thing which settles among the reputed.
    Woman gave birth to man.

    Man can commit every crime, but a woman can’t even weep.
    Man sleeps on a million soft beds, the woman gets the funeral pyre.
    Men have a right to every luxury, for a woman life itself is a punishment.
    And it was woman who gave birth to man.

    The lips which declared love were traded for money.
    The womb in which they were born was used as a business.
    The very body they blossomed from was abused by them.
    Woman gave birth to man.

    Men made customs which were regarded as their rights.
    But a woman, being burnt alive was viewed as sacrifice.
    Even the food given to her was considered an obligation.
    And to think, it was woman who gave birth to man.

    Every act of shamelessness is rooted in poverty.
    What is passion to men is sin to woman.
    Woman gave birth to man.

    A woman is destiny of the world but she doesn’t have it herself
    She bears prophets and lord incarnates,
    Even then she’s considered a devil’s child.
    This is that unfortunate mom who sleeps with her own sons.
    For a woman is mother of the man, but they gave her the marketplace.
    Whenever they felt like it, they accepted or discarded her.
    And it was woman who gave birth to man.

  15. sadhna … o choti bhai… yes… and the bit of shadow play among all the other beauty… this is what i meant by wonder just in the next frame. i would say you are a prince … but that is so reactionary … a peach? … so southern :-)

  16. Ann, how sweet of you to call me “choti bhai” (although I think the “Learn Hindi” book that I am studying from says that should be “chota bhai” :-) )… I am happy to be your muh-bola bhai, bari bahen! (Unfortunately, Raksha Bandhan won’t be coming around again for another ten months – oh, well.)

    I am glad you like the Sadhna clip so much… Yes, I think it’s great, too. And yes, coming out of nowhere, there’s that wonderful shadow play!

    If you would like to call me a peach, too, that’s great. :) And I agree, that is much better than “prince”…

  17. Gaddeswarup, thank you for the interesting comment and the link to the story “Mahesh.” I have read some of this story, and it does seem like a contradiction, but in Wikipedia, for instance, there is much discussion of Sarat’s essay, “Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya,” which talked about Islam and Muslims in an unfavorable light, to say the least. Anyway, I wanted to get back to you sooner, but I still haven’t read “Mahesh” as thoroughly as I had hoped to do before getting back to you. (I’m a bit slow these days in actually reading fiction. :) )

    By the way, I have seen your blog with a few very kind comments on it regarding this blog, and I appreciate that. I am not sure why you didn’t link to it in your comment, but I hope you don’t mind if I share the link here:

    http://gaddeswarup.blogspot.com/.

  18. Sarat wasvery popular in Andhra Pradesh where I grew up (till 1956) and I read most of his novels in translation by then. ‘Mahesh’ was one of my favourite stories. I came across hia antimuslim tirade only four years ago and was very surprised. Perhaps artists sometimes rise above their prejudices.
    There was a review of Sesh Prasna I liked, but the link has disappeared. I quoted parts of it in my blog http://gaddeswarup.blogspot.com/2007/07/sesh-prasna-by-sarat.html
    I did not mention my blog earlier because, after fifty years in mathematics, whatever I say outside mathematics is probably naive and It is mainly for my own reference. But it is nice to find people withvery different background who seem to like many of the same things.

  19. richard – thank you. 10 months to find the rhaki (and all spelling corrections welcome).
    gaddeswarup – thank you for your comments which i have very much enjoyed and the story. i am glad richard has put your link up and am looking forward to looking. but of course, it is ones own references, which can be so interesting and in this case are.

  20. Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s outlook at the time was the general mood of the nation at the time (unfortunately). He was not the only one. There were others.
    I regret to say it, but British rulers played a major role in creatiing the Hindu-Muslim Divide. The rest of the job was done by half baked knowledge of the other religions by Indian native intellectuals.

    BJP and Congress are two major political parties in India with All-India appeal. I’m no fan of BJP myself, but Congress does not give a fair chance to newcomers due to dynasty politics. These might be a few of the considerations that forced the afore-mentioned actresses to join BJP which endorses film stars. And anyhow what a person does in their political life should not be a basis of judging them as artists

  21. Regarding the actresses joining BJP… Which is a worse reflection on the film star – joining BJP out of some genuine belief in it or joining the party just because they endorse film stars? :)

    I saw an interview with Vyjayanthimala in which she basically seemed to be saying that she joined BJP after being in Congress because Congress just wasn’t giving her the right attention.

    Maybe what a person does in her or his political life should not influence our judgment of that person as an artist (though it depends on how much of a connection there is between the two endeavors – I guess it would not be as much for a classically oriented dancer?)… And I don’t think it’s influenced me all that much regarding Vyjayanthimala, because I still greatly appreciate many of her performances. (Same regarding Hema Malini, though I never considered her to be quite in the “same league” as a dancer – but maybe as an actress…) But, still, when we want to hold somebody in high esteem, look up to that person in general, have all the attitudes of a good fan, then bad politics can influence how we feel, at least a little, just like many other bad qualities. (Especially for someone who thinks a lot about political matters – which I do.) But why do all these film stars have to become politicians in the first place, especially if political principles don’t mean a whole lot to them? (Oh, but wait a minute, that quality doesn’t make them any different from most politicians, I guess…)

    Regarding BJP and Congress being two major parties with all-India appeal…so what? I don’t even vote for major parties in the U.S. anymore… Looking from this distance at the last Indian election, I thought, maybe if I were voting in India now, I would go for the Left coalition… But so many people were saying that so many of their candidates were phonies and sellouts too. (There are some comments on this blog here and there about Jayalalitha. :) ) I think the only famous political figure from Indian whom I can believe these days is Arundhati Roy, because the stuff she says about India’s “phony” democracy often sounds to me as though it could just as easily be applied to U.S. democracy…

    Arundhati Roy recently made an appearance here in New York City for the one political group I am supporting (and working for)… They have the word “Occupy” in their name. Here or there, I don’t even want to hear any more about politicians. Too bad that in India so many once were our favorite film stars (here in the U.S., we’ve also had at least a couple of former actors who became bad, reactionary politicians, but they’d also been pretty bad actors, and I don’t they could ever dance).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s