Devdas: Defeatist but filmic
What is love between a man and a woman? A passionate yearning to be together.... to live and love forever.

Great love stories down the ages have captured the imagination of old and young alike. "Devdas" and even "Titanic" are modern so-called love stories, although "Devdas" is an older story re-made.

Aishwarya Rai as Paro is a feast for the eyes in her glamorous sarees. Devdas, adequately portrayed by Sharukh Khan, is an apology of a human being who could neither make up his mind to marry his childhood sweetheart nor make a life without her, even though he had everything: looks, even a British (i.e. foreign) education, wealth and a prestigious family background.

The best scenes in the film, apart from the portrayal of young love in beautiful scenes, are the encounters between the aristocrat and the courtesan. Apart from the singing, dancing and fantastic settings, a high point in the film was Madhuri Dixit's denunciation of the hypocrisy underlying the way of life of the aristocratic mansions and their inhabitants who frequent brothels.

The insidious influence of alcohol as the ticket to enjoyment and the high life is ever present. The men sing and apparently enjoy themselves while drinking and women serve their needs.

Devdas is only admirable when he refuses to treat Madhuri as a whore, trying to give her self-esteem as a woman. Apparently the most expensive film made in India. (I refuse to use the derogatory term "Bollywood", implying that Hollywood is better), the film can be enjoyed for its lavish settings, costumes and portrayal of the twin worlds of old India's rich and well-endowed and the street life of the old "Red Light District".

The new look "Savoy" has comfortable seats and the tickets also cost more. However, the shiny terrazzo flooring and counters are not enough. There should be shelter for the spectators queuing up outside in the sun and rain.

Besides, the crowd queuing up for the toilet downstairs during the Intermission could have been informed there were clean toilets upstairs. The management of the "Savoy", please remember the spectator should be looked after since it is he or she who pays.
-Sirohmi Gunesekera

Chandrasiri's Agnidahaya
Step out of history
As a maiden effort Jayantha Chandrasiri has strived to make the maximum impact on the viewer by his film; visually as well as by delivery of powerful dialogue some times bordering on hysteria. But the question remains whether that alone can contribute to good cinema.

I came off from the hall a bit tired. Somehow I could not feel the satisfaction that was expected. The parts done by the actors and actresses were very good. But when a very small sector (1664) of history is chosen for a film, there is nothing very much one could do with it unless a large budget is sought in depicting huge sets and accompanying hundreds of personnel to go with them, as was done in Ben Hurr or Cleopatra. So the next best is to use men and women; their emotions, hatred, love, their dress codes, rituals etc, as they could be secured without much expense. Well and good; but how far could one go in making a film a success? This is solely dependent on the ability of the director and what he wants to deliver.

What I found most annoying in the film was the unnatural, intense, individual and group anger displayed, alternating with loud and sustained laughter throughout the film interspersed with rapid delivery of unintelligible manthras and slokas. Also the characters are made to run at the slightest opportunity. I suspect the director had little else to depend on, to keep the present day viewers' attention, considering the theme he had chosen.

This brings me to the director Chandrasiri himself who I feel is obsessed with history. He is ably assisted in this film by Jackson Anthony who is similarly inclined. It is time he (Chandrarsiri) emerges out of this cocoon and looks towards other vistas in cinema.

His colleagues in the film medium have moved ahead by now. This is not to belittle his former excellent work on the teledrama field. One hopes he would come out of this fixation on history in his next effort.

He must be mindful that he does not assume the roll of the proverbial "naked king" in the face of all this media praise for his maiden film.
R. Wickramasinghe

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