Sunday, March 4, 2018

Picture The Home—Songs On Dream Of A House

In Anand Tiwari's Love Per Square Foot, a movie on a couple's tribulations for owning a house in the perpetually space-starved Bombay, there is a song called Aashiyana. The song is a dream sequence that depicts Sanjay (Vicky Kaushal) and Karina (Angira Dhar) setting up their home in an apartment. They are completely at bliss in this song. There is a particular sequence where they see a shot of Mumbai from the night sky, and the lyrics say, "Hon door itne, us zameen se, yun lagey aise. Haan! Jugnuon se, jaltey bhujtey, log ho jaise." They will be so far away from the land that people will look like fireflies. It is like they are sitting in their own heaven and can see everyone from the top.
Hindi movies have often shown people dreaming about their idyllic home using songs. Sometimes, it is a couple that dreams of living together; sometimes, single people think of owning a home. Words and phrases, such as aashiyana, duniya, and chhota sa ghar, routinely make an appearance in such songs.

In Naukari (1954), Rattan Kumar Choudhury (Kishore Kumar) stays with his widowed mother (Achala Sachdev) and sick sister Uma (Noor) in the village. He is waiting for his college results. He dreams of the day when he has a job, and a house. He narrates his dreams to his beloved sister in the song Chhota Sa Ghar Hoga where he talks about having his own house in the future. 
The song Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga from Jeevan Mrityu (1970) depicts a dream sequence where a couple imagines their life together as a couple. The song opens with Ashok (Dharmendra) making a small house of sand near the sea. His sand house is surrounded by a garden with a rivulet flowing by that has a boat as well. His lover Deepa (Rakhee) walks with a watering can and puts some water on Ashok. He, then, keeps small figurines of a man and a woman representing the two of them inside his sand house. This is their dream house in which both of them will live together as a married couple. The song, then, moves forward where they can be seen living in this dream home and enjoying their marital bliss. 
The struggle of finding a home in the city is also portrayed splendidly in Gharaonda (1977). The film narrates the story of Sudip (Amol Palekar) and Chhaya (Zarina Wahab) who want to get married as soon as they can a house for themselves. They save money to build a corpus for buying a house. They go house hunting looking for a house that is in their budget. Their struggle is portrayed in the song Do Deewane Shahar Mein. The lyrics of the song say, "Do deewaane shahar mein, raat mein ya dopahar mein, aab-o-danaa dhoondhte hain, ek aashiyaanaa dhoondhte hain." Two people in the city search for a home day and night. Gulzar, who wrote the song, uses the words aab-o-danaa (water and grain) and aashiyana (abode) for the young couple looking for a home in the city. After some events, Chhaya is married to someone else. A second version of the song Ek Akela Is Shahar Mein comes up in the second half of the film that is used to depict Sudip's struggles to find a home for himself. Instead of Do Deewane (two people), he now sings Ek Akela (a single person) as he is now alone. While the first song beautifully shows the search for a physical space, the second version is more about the search for an emotional space.
The national award-winning Tapasya (1976) narrated the story of a sacrificial Indu (Rakhee), the eldest child of Prof Chandrakant Sinha (A.K. Hangal), who takes on the responsibility of bringing up her younger siblings. She falls in love with her family doctor Sagar Verma (Parikshit Sahni) who also helped in the treatment of her father. Indu and Sagar want to get married. One day, Sagar drives Indu to meet his mother. During the ride, they dream of their married life and see themselves in the future in the song Do Panchhi Do Tinke. The song is quite similar to Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga in its portrayal. The lyrics say, "Do panchhi do tinke kaho le ke chale hai kaha. Ye banaayenge ek aashiya." Like two birds that use straws and twigs to make their nest, Indu and Sagar dream of having their own nest some day.
In Man Pasand (1980), Kamli (Tina Munim) sells neem branches in trains. She earns enough to make a living. One night, she is talking to her friend. Her friend asks Kamli the reason for saving all her money. She replies that she is saving it to have her own koli (house) someday. Her friend, who is getting married the next day, tells Kamli as to why is she worrying about a house. Her future husband should take care of it. Kamli replies that she does not need a man for that and she will make her house with her own money. Thereafter, Rehne Ko Ek Ghar Hoga is shown where Kamli goes in a state of trance and imagines herself in a spacious house of her own. She also sings, "Sare mohalle ki Rani banke, chalungi sadkon pe to main to tan kar. Ek hukum pe mere sab jhuk jayenge." She will walk the streets with pride and have people who will obey all her orders. The song's music and lyrics are adapted from Audrey Hepburn's Wouldn't It Be Loverly from My Fair Lady. In Hepburn's version, the singer talks about having a man who takes care of her. "Someone's head restin' on my knee, warm and tender as he can be. Who takes good care of me." While in Man Pasand, the man is replaced by the mother. This entire song sequence is so remarkable in its conception and depiction, especially, in the sense that it acknowledges the property rights of a woman, and that, too, without a man giving her any financial support. Having a song like this in a film of the eighties is definitely special.

The desire for a house is expressed beautifully in another song Logon Ke Ghar Me Rehta Hu from Griha Pravesh (1979). The film is about a married couple Amar (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mansi (Sharmila Tagore). They live as frugally as possible so that they can buy their own flat. The song is written by Gulzar, where the protagonist talks about the houses of his relatives at different places in the city, but he is wondering when will he be able to have his own home. Logo ke ghar me rahta hu, kab apna koi ghar hoga. He stays in someone else's house. When will he have his own home? He adds, "Mauje pahne rahta hu, nange paanv aangan me kab baithunga." He says that he is always wearing socks in others' homes, but he wishes to sit bare feet in the courtyard of his own home. It is a typical Gulzar-esque song where socks are used to depict the wish for a house.
In Ahsaas (1979), Raju (Parvez) is in love with Anu (Dina). They plan to marry each other. Their parents are not in favor of their relationship; however, they secretly get married but continue to live separately. Due to some confusion, Anu thinks Raju is betraying her with some other girl. Raju, then, reminds her of their dream house in the song Sapno Ke Shahar Ham Banayenge Ghar. Sung by Kishore Kumar, the song reminds them of their dream house. Mausam hanse, gulshan hanse, ghar par mere angan hanse. Ro raha dil mera, sapno ke shahar, ham banayenge ghar. Similarly, in Love Story (1981), Bunty (Kumar Gaurav) and Pinky (Vijeta Pandit) fall in love with each other after they run from their respective homes. When they are in hiding, they sing Dekho Maine Dekha Hai Ek Sapna in which they talk about their dream of living together in a house located in a city of flowers surrounded by the mountains. Kitna hasin hai yeh ek sapana, phulo ke shehar me hai ghar apana
A celebrated army officer Ajit Singh (Vinod Khanna) is jailed as he kills the men who sexually assaulted his wife Chanchal (Zeba Bakhtiar) in Muqadma (1996). While in jail, Ajit reminisces about the life with Chanchal in the song Chota Sa Ek Ghar where they talk about the life in their little home. In Mission Kashmir (2000), a terrorist Altaaf (Hrithik Roshan) visits his childhood friend Sufiyana (Preity Zinta). He sees a painting in her house which reminds him of the time they spent together as kids. In the song Socho Ke Jheelon Ka Sheher Ho, Altaaf and Sufiyana think about their idyllic life in the heavenly lands of Kashmir, where they dreamt of having a house over the waters of the lake. Leheron pe apna ek ghar ho. The song is shot in an artificial setting and proves yet again that nothing can match the picturesque beauty of Kashmir.
While the above instances portray the dreams of a house, there have been many songs that depict a couple living in their home together. Some of these include Chhota Sa Ghar Apna from Charitraheen (1974), Humne Ghar Chhoda Hai from Dil (1990), Darwaza Band Karlo from Darr (1993), and Aashiyana from Barfi! (2012).
In a country where millions continue to live in poverty, owning a house is, truly, a dream for many. With growth in the economy, here's hoping that many people get the opportunity to fulfil their dreams so that they can go on to dream about even bigger things.

Other Reading:
1. On Love Per Square FootLink
2. On Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan HogaLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Mauje pahne rahta hu, nange paanv aangan me kab baithunga."
Griha Pravesh

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Love Per Square Foot—Of Space

Anand Tiwari's Love Per Square Foot is the story of Karina D'Souza (Angira Dhar) and Sanjay Chaturvedi (Vicky Kaushal), who dream of owning a house in the city of Mumbai. Both of them work in the same bank. A government housing scheme for married couples is released, and they enter into a deal to apply for it. However, as it often happens, they also fall for each other. The film, then, tries to depict how the two of them overcome the challenges to fulfill their dream of having a home. Love Per Square Foot is India's first direct-to-digital film and was released directly on Netflix.
Love Per Square Foot, as the title also suggests, is about space. In the opening few moments, Sanjay, sitting on a toilet seat, tells his mother that he needs space. Staying all his life in a railway quarter with his parents, he gets his space to do whatever he wants in the few moments in the toilet. At a later point, Karina tells Sam (Kunal Roy Kapur) that she needs her own space, and she cannot live with his parents. When Sanjay and Karina are traveling in a local train, they see a couple canoodling in the train. Sanjay remarks that there is no space for couples to even kiss in the city. Much to the surprise of everyone around them, he kisses Karina in public in the train compartment. This lack of space is, perhaps, more prominent in Mumbai, but is not restricted to that city only. If one has traveled in the Delhi Metro, one must have seen couples meeting on the station platforms. Every few months, there are reports in the media of police raiding hotels, and charging people for engagement in illicit activities. This issue is also prevalent in small-town India, as was seen in Masaan (Vicky Kaushal's first film). Devi (Richa Chadda) and her boyfriend pretend to be a married couple and check in a hotel. However, the hotel is raided by the police and the two are caught in the act. There is a similar moment in Love Per Square Foot, too, where Sanjay and Karina go to a hotel for some private time with each other, but the caretaker tells them to run away as there has been a police raid on the hotel premises. This lack of space is one of the most underrated challenges in a predominantly conservative country, having the largest population of youth in the world. This is why it is heartening to see startups, such as StayUncle, doing some amazing work to provide a solution to this. 
The space that Karina and Sanjay talk about is not just physical, but, it is also emotional. The dream house is not only a means to have a physical space of their own, but it is also about having a chance to live life independently and to take your own decisions. When Sanjay is trying to convince Karina to fill the application form, he tells her, "Tumhara apna ghar hoga na, Karina, toh phir tumhe apni zindagi apne terms pe jeene se koi nahi rok sakta." If she has a house of her own, no one can stop her from living her life on her own terms. After they apply for the house, Karina tells Sanjay that she cannot pay the security deposit as her mother controls all her finances. Her mother was making all the decisions for her, from her finances to the choice of her husband. When Sanjay tells his parents that he got a house, his mother's attitude towards him changes. Earlier, she was always on the side of her husband; however, she supports Sanjay now, prompting her husband to tell her to not change sides. It is as if having a house gave both of them some power and freedom to their life. Thus, the space that is shown in the film is both external and internal. In a blink-and-miss moment, when Sanjay and Karina go to apply for the house, the names of the couple in front of them are depicted as Reza and Lata. We don't know their story, but it is clear that they belong to different religions. Maybe, they are applying for a house of their own to break away from their families and live a life together. 
Sanjay and Karina hardly got any space, and, thus, we see their most private moments happening in public. They make their decision to apply for a house in an auto rickshaw. They make out in trains and auto rickshaws. When Karina comes to talk to Sanjay, she asks him if they can sneak into his room. He replies that he does not have a room of his own, and he sleeps in the hall. They, then, go to the terrace to talk. When they kiss there, the residents of the other building tease them. Sanjay remarks that Karina must appreciate his timing as he proposed to her in a rickshaw and now he is saying to her that he loves her through a television. At another stage, when Sanjay is going to his wedding, he is forced to change his clothes in public. Finally, in the end, when they get to talk to each other, they are again surrounded by their relatives, but they are standing at some distance from them. The relatives cannot fully understand the talk between the couple. Sanjay and Karina, somehow, always managed to get their tiny spaces to have private moments in public.
There is a point in the film where Sam takes Karina to his house and offers her a room where she can stay with her mother until the time they get married. The windows of the room have grills. They don't open because they are jammed. Sam tells her there is no need for the windows as there is an air conditioner to compensate for the lack of fresh air. This 'space' that Sam offers Karina is almost a reflection of their own relationship—artificial, fake, and claustrophobic. Karina is not truly free and feels suffocated in their relationship. She is trapped in its superficiality. It is only a compromise for a house. Karina desires a relationship where she and her partner contribute 'fifty-fifty' to everything. However, her relationship with Sam is the one where only he contributes. Karina wants to be an equal contributor to the relationship, and that is why she does not feel happy with all the amenities that Sam offers her, even if she really needs those amenities. Sam is the more dominating decision-making partner, and treats their relationship no different than the one between a master and a servant. He gives money to his driver to apply for the same housing scheme that Karina wants to apply as well. In the same scene, Sam gets irritated when his servant does not come at once when he pressed the buzzer. For him, Karina's wishes are no different from the people who work for him. In fact, this domination is seen in Sanjay's boss Rashi (Alankrita Sahai) and her fake relationship with Sanjay as well. Rashi's employees always wonder as to why she treats them like slaves. Rashi calls Sanjay as her slave, and he, in turn, calls her boss. Even though they might be role-playing in such conversations, it provides pointers to the nature of their relationship. In the initial moments of the film, Rashi warns two employees that she will fire them if they do not present her a plan B. When her boyfriend Kashin (Arunoday Singh) comes back, she tells Sanjay that he was her plan B. She is only looking for a safety net. Sam and Rashi think about their self first (nothing wrong with that), while Karina and Sanjay desire an equal relationship.
In Hindi cinema, there have been numerous instances where there has been a distinction made between a makaan (house) and a ghar (home). A makaan implies the physical aspect of the building, while a ghar refers to the people and the feeling associated with the place. In Naseeb (1997), a character says, "Bhare saawan mein reghistaan lagta hai, yeh ghar mera khali makaan lagta hai." In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Anjali's mother tells her, "Woh ghar jo samjhaute ke balboote par bana ho, pyaar nahi, woh ghar nahi, makaan hota hai." A house made on a compromise and not love is a house and not a home. Here, again, the film makes a distinction between a ghar and a makaan. In the early moments of the film, Sanjay's mother Lata (Supriya Pathak) tells him, "Ghar moti deewaron aur kamron ke size se nahi banta. Jo log andar rehte hain na usse banta hai." Home is made up of the people who live in it, and not by the size of its walls or its rooms. He dismisses it by saying that there are already too many people in the house. When Sanjay realizes the importance of a home, he tells Karina, "Main ghar nahi, makaan chah raha tha." It is this realization that the film tries to underscore that the foundation of a good home comprises a house and the people associated with it. 
My favorite song in the film, Aashiyana, depicts some splendid moments. The song is primarily shot in and around an apartment building. After all, it is the dream of Sanjay and Karina, and it is only fitting that they go to their dreamland in such a song. They are completely at bliss in this song. There is a particular sequence where they see a shot of Mumbai from the night sky, and the lyrics say, "Hon door itne, us zameen se, yun lagey aise. Haan! Jugnuon se, jaltey bhujtey, log ho jaise." We will be so far away from the land, where people will look like fireflies. It is, again, reflecting their desire for space, far away from the other people. It is almost like they are sitting in their own heaven and can see everyone from the top. There is also a tribute to Gulzar the lyrics. Baarishen khul ke, jab bhi ghar humare aaye, gaane Gulzar ke, mil ke gungunaien. Whenever the rains will come uninvited, we will sing a song by Gulzar.
The film's other Gulzar moment comes in the best scene of the film. Bhaskar Chaturvedi (Raghubir Yadav), Sanjay's father, gives his retirement speech. He says that he has been watching the railway tracks for the past thirty years. These tracks are like the lines of a hand that never fade away. He had wanted to be a singer, but could not make it, so he became a railway announcer. He has no regrets (he uses the beautiful word malaal for regrets) because, in a way, he helped people reach one-step closer to their destination. If he had not done this job, many people will lose their trains. All the travelers are like his children and he has only one advice for them, which is to not stand on the wrong platform, else they will be left stranded forever. Then, he goes on to sing, Musafir Hoon Yaaron from Gulzar's Parichay (a picture of Mohammad Rafi can also be seen behind). It is a poignant moment where a man who spent thirty years in a job gets to say one final goodbye in his unique way. 
At an early point, Blossom (Ratna Pathak Shah), Karina's mother, in a moment of fury, tells her that she sacrificed her life for her, and Karina will never be her. "You will never be me." Later, when she is getting married, she again brings up the conversation and says that Karina should not become her. "You shouldn't become me." Blossom has been staying in someone else's house, and living on her brother's charity. Karina, however, will stay in her own house with a man she loves, and lead a life by her own terms. She will not be like her mother. I felt there is a similarity in the two sets of parents in the film. Sanjay's parents live in a house given by the Railways, while Karina's mother stays in a house of her brother. Their houses are literally crumbling. Sanjay remarks that when he tries to put a nail in the house, the entire house shakes. The walls of Blossom's house are collapsing bit by bit every day. Chalk keeps falling on their heads. Even the professions of the parents depict old-school nostalgia. Bhaskar is a railway announcer, while Blossom is a seamstress, who still uses a sewing machine. With the advent of rapid automation, such professions would cease to exist in another twenty years. Additionally, in today's generation, it will be rare to find someone who works at the same place for thirty years. Our parents' generation will be the last of these people. Like the crumbling houses, an old world and an antecedent thought-process are slowly being replaced by new ones. You will never be me. We will not be like our parents. I could not help but think of Bunty Aur Babli, one of the earliest films that depicted this generational change much before it became common. Rakesh (Abhishek Bachchan) fights with his father, who wants him to follow his path of becoming a ticket-checker in the Railways, while Rakesh has bigger plans for himself. The bylanes of Fursatganj are not his destiny. The always-so-brilliant Jai Arjun Singh explains this change much better here
There is definitely a vibe of the web series Bang Baaja Baraat and Permanent Roommates in the film, as the writers of this film, Anand Tiwari and Sumeet Vyas, have been closely associated with those shows, respectively. Also, the auto rickshaws in the film have a character of their own. I kept looking forward to the rickshaw scenes to see what reference will be shown in them. One depicted Raj and Simran from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge with the mandolin; another one had Sahib Jaan from Pakeezah; another one had a bride and a groom that appears at the time when Sanjay and Karina were also thinking to get married. Going solely by the song Yatri Kripaya Dhyaan De, Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy, a film on Mumbai's street rappers, seems something to look forward to next year. Finally, many commentators have observed the parallels between Love Per Square Foot and Bhimsen Khurana's Gharaonda (written by Gulzar; another Gulzar tribute). 
In the recently released Economic Survey 2017-18, there is an interesting section devoted to housing in India. It states that the share of rental housing as a percentage of total households in India has been declining in Indian cities since independence. Rental housing decreased from 54 percent in 1961 to reach 28 percent in 2011. Owning a house is a dream for many, and the data corroborates that people want to have a home of their own. Despite the shortage of housing in urban India, there is also a trend of increase in vacant houses. Surprisingly, Mumbai has the highest number of vacant houses in the country. No one knows for sure why it is like that. But, in a city, where there is a clamor for every inch of space, owning a house is indeed a luxury. Just having a toilet in a house is its own privilege in the city (looking at you, Mrs. (Un)Funny Bones). Maybe that is why Love Per Square Foot opens and ends with men wearing a cape. Owning a house, especially in Mumbai, requires every person to bring out their version of Superman. And, the rest of us can dream, and hope that our dreams come true on their own.
Ranbir Kapoor makes a cameo appearance. This is his second cameo appearance in the climax of a film. In PK, he comes up as an alien, just like the first scene of the film where Aamir Khan came as an alien. In this film as well, the first and the last scene are almost the same. And, yes, he is, truly, a heera
Rekha Bhardwaj sings in shuddh sarang raag twice. 
Sanjay's father Bhaskar sings Hemant Kumar's Yeh Nayan Dare Dare from Kohraa.

He also sings Musafir Hoon Yaaron from Parichay
The word attendant is spelled incorrectly. #Sorry
Books In Movies:
A book on Windows
Connected: 24 Hours in the Global Economy by Daniel Altman
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and
 The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham
Other Reading:
1. Jai Arjun Singh on travelers and platforms—Link
2. Industry and Infrastructure, Economic Survey 2017-18—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Duniya ki sabse purani aur common feeling hai but jab jab hoti hai nayi si lagti hai."
—Sanjay, Love Per Square Foot

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chef—Of Second Chances

Raja Krishna Menon's Chef (2017) is the official remake of Jon Favreau's Chef (2014). It is the story of Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan), a chef, working in the US. After an altercation with a customer, he is fired from his restaurant. He takes a break and goes to India to meet his son Ary (Svar Kamble) and his ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya Janakiraman). He is given an opportunity to start a mobile restaurant, which he takes it up after some convincing. The restaurant goes on a cross-country trip, and is well received, and in the process, Roshan rediscovers himself, and the things that matter to him. 
Chef is, essentially, about getting second chances to reinvent yourself. Roshan ran away from his home to follow his dreams. As he says, in those days, 3 Idiots had not released to give the message to parents to let their kids follow their dreams. He became a successful chef, but after so many years, he seems to have lost his mojo. He takes a break and thinks about his life. There is a point in the film where Radha tells Roshan, "Zindagi me apna passion ek baar mil jaye wohi badi baat hoti hai. Lekin kuch lucky logon ko use khokar dobara paane ke chance milta hai." Finding your passion once in life is a big deal, but only a few lucky people get the second chance to lose it and find it again. He has to make the most of the opportunities that he is getting to find himself again. Radha's friend Biju (Milind Soman) gives him an old bus to start a mobile restaurant. Even that bus gets a second chance in life, and is turned into a food truck. Roshan goes back to his roots, and reinvents his style. A rottza, a hybrid of roti and pizza, becomes the symbol of his reinvention. The aforementioned aspect holds true not only for Roshan's professional life, but also for his personal life. He is divorced from his wife, and is estranged from his father. He gets a second chance at a relationship with the both of them. 
Saif Ali Khan's career, just like Roshan's, was in the doldrums in the late nineties. Saif's career got a second lease of life after Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It is, perhaps, fitting that Saif gets to play Roshan, as he also got a second chance to reinvent his career. In what can be construed as a meta-moment for Saif, he even acknowledges that seminal film here. At some point in Chef, Roshan talks about the time he had come to Goa with his two friends. He met a white woman, which, led to some embarrassing events for him. It is clearly a reference to Dil Chahta Hai where Sameer was duped by Cristine in Goa. 
Saif Ali Khan as Roshan is wonderful. Saif usually excels at this kind of roles, and there is a certain comfort in Saif that can be felt here. However, the problem I felt with Chef is that there is not enough happening in the film to sustain my interest for over two hours. It is too uneventful, and never reaches a zenith. There are no major dramatic conflicts that can cause some tension in the film. Even the food shots seem to be a little lackluster in comparison to other similar films. 
There is a scene where Roshan and Ary are visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Roshan tells his son that it was at the langar, he learned the difference between cooking and feeding someone. At some later stage in the film, Ary is willing to serve a half-cooked dish to a customer. Roshan takes him aside and reiterates the learning he got from the langar that getting an opportunity to feed someone with your hands is a blessing of God. It is a wonderful scene that teaches us about remaining true to one's craft, and making use of that craft for the larger good. Getting to feed God's own creations is, truly, a blessing. And also, is there anything other than food that takes us closer to God and makes us experience heaven? 
India has official languages. It has no national language(s). This is incorrect.
Mirch Masala
A painting by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Saif's height is shown as six feet. Jhooth, saraasar jhooth
Saif Ali Khan also played a chef in Siddharth Anand's Salaam Namaste (2005). 
Books In Movies:
A book on Botticelli
A book on Warren Buffett
Dialogue of the Day:
"Kisi ko apne haath se khana khilane ka mauka milna Rab ki badi meher hoti hai."

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Devdas—Of Radha, Krishna, and Meera

It is strange to me that I find it harder to write on the films that I love. Perhaps, it has something to do with the attachment that one forms with the film, and it is difficult to put down in words the feelings of that bond. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas remains my favorite film of his, and in the last few weeks, I have watched it again so many times, and continue to remain dazzled by its opulence, not just visual, but also emotional. Set in the early 1900s, Devdas is the story of Devdas Mukherjee (Shah Rukh Khan). His wealthy family prohibits him from marrying his childhood love Paro (Aishwarya Rai) because of her lower caste and class. An embittered Devdas embraces alcoholism and meets a courtesan Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit) who falls for him. The film is the story of these three characters, and is based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel Devdas
In the oeuvre of Mr. Bhansali, there is a devotional aspect associated with love and the same is portrayed in Devdas as well. As per him, love is the purest form of emotion, and it is equivalent to worshipping God. Chandramukhi defines love as, "Pyaar aatma ki parchhai hai, ishq ishwar ki ibadat, aur mohabbat zindagi ka maksad." Love is the shadow of the soul. Love is the devotion to God. Love is the purpose of life. The Arabic word ibadat—the plural form of ibadah—is translated as worship and refers to obedience, submission, and devotion to God. Ibadat is the one word that perfectly describes Mr. Bhansali's definition of love, and this is why ibadat keeps reappearing in his repertoire.
The film compares the love between Dev and Paro to be similar to the one between Krishna and Radha. Krishna and Radha were childhood lovers. They married different people but all their life, they loved each other. Just before Paro's wedding, Dev wounds her and metaphorically marries her. All their life they loved each other. Dev and Paro were, thus, like Krishna and Radha. This is also evident in the song Morey Piya where Dev and Paro are shown to be doing Raas Leela, like Krishna and Radha. The lyrics say, "Dhumak dhumak kar naach rahi thi meri Radha pyaari, jaane kahan se Raas rachaane aaya chhaila girdhaari.Thumping, my lovely Radha was dancing. Who knows from where this Krishna has come to play Raas. 
Chandramukhi is Meera, the mystic poet who gave up her royal life to become a devotee of Krishna. At some point, Paro comes to Chandramukhi's place to inquire about Dev's whereabouts. Chandramukhi touches Paro's feet, and introduces herself as Devdasi—a devotee of Devdas. She tells Paro that she has not seen Dev for nearly six months. Paro believes it to be a lie, and storms inside Chandramukhi's room. Instead of Dev, she only finds an idol of Krishna. Chandramukhi tells her, "Hamari nazar se dekhogi, toh chaaro taraf paogi unko. Aaj bhi mahakta hai yeh kamra unki khushboo se. Main toh sirf unki pooja karti hun." If she sees from her perspective, she will find Dev everywhere. His fragrance still lingers in the room. She only worships him. In this aspect, Dev is Krishna to Chandramukhi's Meera. Like God, he is omnipresent to her. She has not even removed the spilled chalice from which Dev used to drink. On seeing Chandramukhi's devotion, Paro remarks, "Ek tawaif jogan ban gayi." A courtesan has become a devotee. In this scene, Chandramukhi is dressed entirely in saffron, the same color often associated with jogans, such as Meera. Later, in the song, Chalak Chalak, Chandramukhi is again compared to Meera and the lyrics say, "Hey naache Meera, jogan banke, O mere Ghanshaam. Naache Meera leherake balkhaake, O mere Ghanshaam." Meera dances like she is dancing for her Krishna. 
Paro is more like Radha, and Chandramukhi is more like Meera, but they have been shown to also have the traits of the other. Paro's devotion for Dev by lighting a diya (a lamp) for him is like Meera's devotion for Krishna. Amitava Nag in his essay From Devdas to Dev writes, "Parvati’s wait for Devdas attains mythical heights analogous to Radha’s love for Krishna, or Meera Bai’s selfless sacrifice and devotion to Sri Krishna. In Parvati’s submission to Devdas she inherits the traits of both Radha and Meera Baia rare incarnation which obviates her treatment as a mere human character." In Kaahe Chhed Mode, Chandramukhi dances on the song where Radha is complaining that Krishna kissed her. Dhaai shaam rok lai, rok lai, rok lai. Dhaai shaam rok lai, aur chakmaka mukh choom lai. Krishna stopped me, stopped me. Krishna stopped me, and he suddenly kissed me on my face. Thus, she has also been given something related to Radha. Paro and Chandramukhi are both Radha and Meera and this becomes more clear when the film treats the two of them as equal lovers of Dev.
Chandramukhi might be a courtesan, with a bad reputation in the society, but the film treats her love for Dev almost as important as Paro's love for Dev, and here in the lies the film's subversiveness. There is a point in the film where Dev tells Chandramukhi that for him, Paro and Chandramukhi are like his two eyes. Paro is sentimental and vivacious. Chandramukhi is delicate and demure. Paro is fickle, like a doe, gushing like a river. She is the liar, the butterfly, and the moon. Chandramukhi is a poem, and a ballad. Everyone loves Paro, but Chandramukhi is unloved by all except Dev. But at the end of it, they are Dev's eyes through which he sees the world. They might be different from each other in person, but, they share the love for the same man. Paro's face is compared with the moon; Chandramukhi's name itself means who has a face like the moon. They both worship Dev. In Hamesha Tumko Chaha, Paro sings, "Tumhe dil ne hai pooja, pooja, pooja. Aur pooja kuch bhi nahin." My heart worshipped only you, and worshipped no one else. Later, Chandramukhi also tells Paro that she worships Dev. Main toh sirf unki pooja karti hun. When they are taking leave from Dev, they both go and touch his feet. At some point, Dev gives Paro the kangan (the bangle) that his grandmother kept for Dev's future wife. When Paro meets Chandramukhi, she gives the same bangle to her, because as Dev's other worshipper, she should have also the right to wear it. In this way, she gives Chandramukhi something that was meant for Dev's wife. The film treats Chandramukhi with immense grace, and gives her a stature equal to Dev's wife, just like Paro's.
There are quite other scenes that depict the underlying similarity of Paro and Chandramukhi. The two of them, Paro and Chandramukhi, waited for Dev in their life. Paro waited ten years for him to come and lit a diya for him. Chandramukhi does not dance and waits for Dev to come to her courthouse because jab tak aap nahi ayenge, mehfil nahi sajegi. Dev catches an insect in his hand when he sees it hovering around Paro because he cannot bear the thought of anyone touching her. Later, when Dev is at Chandramukhi's place, he again catches an insect hovering around her, but says, that it is trying to touch a paper flower instead of a lotus. Both Paro and Chandramukhi preserve Dev's memories. Paro puts the three rupees that she stole from Dev in her saree's pallu all the time. Tumhari yaadein mere daaman se hai. Every memory of Dev is precious to her. Likewise, Chandramukhi preserved the room the way Dev left it. She has not even removed the spilled chalice from which Dev used to drink alcohol. Like Paro, Chandramukhi finds Dev in the flame of the lamp. 
The film further reiterates their similar stature of the two in the song Dola Re Dola. There is no mention of any meeting taking place between Paro and Chandramukhi in Sarat Chandra's work. However, Devdas not only has a meeting between the two, but it extends this meeting to a full-fledged celebratory dance on the occasion of Durga Puja. Before the song, Paro visits Chandramukhi and asks for mitti (soil) from her place for creating Durga's idol. It is believed that those who visit prostitutes leave their purity and virtues outside the house of the prostitutes, thereby, making the soil outside the prostitute's house pure and virtuous. This soil is used for creating Durga's idol. There was a similar scene in Shakti Samanta's Amar Prem, where a sculptor takes some mud from Pushpa's place for making an idol of Durga. In Devdas, Paro invites Chandramukhi to her place for Durga Puja. When Chandramukhi arrives, she introduces Chandramukhi as her friend in front of her mother-in-law. Paro convinces Chandramukhi to dance with her so that they can forget their heartache for some time.
In the song, Paro and Chandramukhi are dressed identically together in a red-and-white saree, and adorn a lot of jewelry. This uniformity in their dressing reflected the shared love they have for the same man i.e. Devdas. The two women dance together not in private, but in front of the society, underscoring their equal standing. Paro is married to a zamindar, and is the thakurain, a feudal term derived from Thakur which means a master, and represented the upper class of people. Chandramukhi is the tawaif, a courtesan who was shunned by all, and has no respect in the eyes of the society. They sing, "Lag jaane do najariya, gir jaane do bijuriya." Let everyone stare at them, let the lightning fall. Paro and Chandramukhi are well aware of what they are doing. They know that they are disrupting societal norms. Even if the heavens strike, they do not care, because they want to dance for the man they love, and love sees no class barriers. 
A few moments later, Chandramukhi says, "Baandh ke main ghungroo," and Paro continues, "Pehen ke main payal." It is here again the film brings out the difference and the similarity in Paro and Chandramukhi by the kind of jewelry they wear. Chandramukhi sits on the floor, and shows her ghungroo, while Paro remains standing and bends to show her payal. A payal is usually associated with a woman's beauty and grace. Ghunghroo has been traditionally worn by classical dancers for centuries; however, it gained the reputation of adorning the feet of courtesans through Indian cinema, in movies, such as Umrao Jaan, Pakeezah, and Mughal-E-Azam. Here, Paro, the upper-class woman, wears a payal, and Chandramukhi, the courtesan, wears a ghunghroo. Thus, in Dola Re Dola, the two women sing about the jewelry they wear, based on their societal status, and despite these differences, the jewelry they wear is for the same purpose of dancing for the man they madly love.
Moments before Paro's wedding to an aristocrat, Dev comes to meet her and tries to convince her to marry him. Paro is angry at his indecisiveness, and tells him to go away. Dev's father had insulted her because of her family's lower stature in society. After her marriage, she would have a stature equivalent to Dev's family. She would have everythingthe virtues, the beauty, and the richesDev cannot bear Paro's guroor (vanity), and tells her even the beauteous moon is not as vain as her. Paro replies it's because the moon has dark spots and is scarred, while she is pure. Hurt by Paro's stinging words, Dev takes a pearl necklace and hits Paro on her head, giving her a scar. She starts bleeding, and Dev uses her blood as vermilion and spreads it over the mid-part of her head, symbolically marrying her in the process. They might be officially married to different people, but in their heart, they are married to each other. She is given a life-long scar as well on her forehead, and become just like the moon. As the lyrics of Hamesha Tumko Chaaha say, "Jo daag tumne mujhko diya us daag se mera chehra khila, rakhungi isko nishaani banakar maathe pey isko hamesha sajakar." The scar that Dev has given adds to Paro's beauty and it will always serve as a reminder of him. The scar is Dev and the film adds life to this scar as well. There is a stage when Dev starts vomiting blood as he is dying, and at the same time, Paro falls down from the stairs, and the scar from head oozes out blood, again, a symbolic reminder of Dev being the scar. It is remarkable that Mr. Bhansali uses these inexplicable connections between Dev and Paro. The scar is another of Mr. Bhansali's trademarks which continues to reappear as a motif in his other films, too. 
In the opening credits of the film, when the title Devdas appears on screen, there is a thunderstorm that is heard and the screen turns grey for a few seconds, mimicking the lightning. Kaushalya, Devdas' mother, calls him toofan—a storm. When she gets the news of his homecoming, she says, "Mera toofan aa raha hai." Her tempest is coming home. In anticipation, Devdas' family members sing, "Dhaak bajao, dhol bajao re," where again a tempest is mentioned. A joyous tempest stirs my heartstrings. Drum up the cheer. When he finally comes back, his mother says, "Gaya tha chhota toofan banke, aur laut raha hai bada vakil banke." He went as a small tempest, but returns as a top lawyer. Tempest is one of the many symbolisms with which Dev is compared to in the film. When Dev storms out in anger from his house, he says the tempest must pass, else it will cause a lot of damage. Later, Dev compares himself to a toofan (storm) and his father to a chhadi (whip) when he is lying drunk on a boat. Hum unke liye toofan, aur woh hamare liye chhadi. A tempest brings with it destruction and damage. Dev loses all his relationships and goes on to the path of self-destruction. His inability to make up his own mind brought about his annihilation. It is, then, only fitting to compare Dev to a tempest. This also finds resonance in Satyajit Ray's Charulata where Amal's arrival coincided with the coming of a storm, as if giving a premonition of the storm that will change the life of Charulata.
After Devdas goes to London for his studies, Paro lights a diya (a lamp) in Dev's memory. For ten years, she lights a lamp, and not even for a moment, she let it extinguish, protecting it from everything. The lamp symbolized Dev. Paro takes the diya with her even after her wedding, because her love for Dev does not end with her marriage. She made sure to keep it burning till the end, and it only gets extinguished when Dev dies. There is no mention of the lamp in the Sarat Chandra's story, and, this is a touch by Mr. Bhansali. When Dev gets to know about the lamp, he tells Paro, "Diya tum jalati thi, par jalta toh main hi tha.In the flame of the lamp that you lit, it was I who burned. At some other point, Paro's mother Sumitra tells her, "Maine tujhe diye ke saath saath Devdas ke liye jalte hue dekha hai.With the lamp, I saw you burn for Devdas. The lamp, again, symbolizes the burning desire for the lover. The representation of desire using fire is another leitmotif in the work of Mr. Bhansali. In another comparison, Chandramukhi calls Devdas as her paras mani, the one whose touch turns iron into gold.
If Dev is compared to the storm and the lamp, Paro is also compared to some symbols. She is the moon. When she first meets Dev, she does not show her face and tells him that she is like the moon, and she fears that when he will see her, he will become breathless. Dev tells her that even the moon does not have as much guroor (vanity) about its beauty as she is. She replies to him that it is because the moon has scars, and she is flawless. He goes away from her room informing her that he will see her face at moonrise. In the night, when the moon is out, Dev goes to Paro's place, where she is sleeping in the courtyard. In a spectacular scene, Dev is stunned to see Paro's face juxtaposed with the full moon, leaving no doubt that Paro is indeed as celestial as the moon. He smiles to himself after he finally gets to see that luminous face. He takes some soot from the burning diya next to her, and puts it on her lips, giving her a nazar ka teeka to prevent her from any evil eye. At some later stage, Dev compares Paro with alcohol. He calls himself a chalice that is filled with Paro's name. He is intoxicated by the love of Paro. 
If there are Radha Krishna references from the Mahabharata, the film also brings in some from the Ramayana as well. Devdas' mother is named Kaushalya, while Parvati's mother is named Sumitra. Kaushalya and Sumitra were the names of the two (out of the three) wives of Lord Ram's father Dashratha. While Kaushalya was the birth mother of Ram, Dashratha's other wives treated him as their own son. Kaikai, the much-reviled mother, is not present here, but Kumud, Devdas' sister-in-law, makes up not only for Kaikai, but Manthra as well. It is important to mention this because these names of the mothers of Devdas and Parvati mentioned in Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novels are different.
It can also be inferred that Chandramukhi has some shades of Sahibjaan from Pakeezah. There is a particular sequence in the film where Chandramukhi puts her hair into the water, which is reminiscent of the way Sahibjaan used to do it when she lay down near the little water fountain and put her tresses in it. The mujra in green dress also gives another shade of similarity between the two.
The other aspect of love in Mr. Bhansali's work is its doomed nature. His characters keep pining for each other, and often end up not getting together. When Paro goes to meet Dev at his house in the middle of the night, she tells him, "Khona toh har haal me hai, Dev. Ya tumhare saath, ya tumhare bagair.I'm doomed, in any case. Be it with you, or without you. They are either way doomed, even if they stay together, or, if they do not stay together. In the song Bairi Piya, the film actually told us the Paro will marry an old man and Dev will remain unmarried. It is this foreshadowing, which is also present in his other films, that gave us an indication of the doomed story of Dev and Paro. There is also a line in the same song Bairi Piya, "Tu door jo tha to paas hi tha. Ab paas hai to door hai kyun. Na jaane na jaane na jaane na jaane jaane." When you were away, you were nearer. When you are now near, you feel far. The lovers feel closer in distance. In every second of time, they are reminded of love. When Dev comes back from London, Paro tells him that she read his letter his five letters, five times every day for ten years. She remembered him every second of the day. Dev tells her that he remembered her only in one instance, and that was whenever he took a breath. Later, when he asks Chandramukhi if she loves him, she says he could have just asked if she breathes
In King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema, film critic Anupama Chopra writes, "Paro's house which shimmered with 157,000 pieces of stained glass, a metaphor for her fragile beauty, cost 30 million rupees ($65,000)." When Paro is married, there is a distinct change in her appearance as well as demeanor. She has become a thakurain from a fragile beauty. She wears large-sized jewelry, and even larger bindi. All this reflects her changed stature, but at the same time, it gives out a feeling of claustrophobia. She appears to be suffocated in the palatial house. She might be married to an aristocrat, but in her heart, she is still the Paro who loves Devdas. But this new stature also instills in her a confidence. She is not afraid to tell her husband that if he cannot forget his first wife, then, Dev is also her first love and she cannot forget him. In fact, the women in the film are much stronger than the men. Chandramukhi confronts and slaps Kalibabu in front of everybody, and tells him that it is because of men like him that courtesans exist. On the other hand, the men in the film are too weak. Devdas does not even have the courage to make up his own mind.
Devdas is the third film of Mr. Bhansali, after Khamoshi and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. I am not entirely sure if it is acceptable to compare the film of a director with his other films that released after the said film. But for the sake of completeness, I am still mentioning some of the themes (in addition to the above) and motifs in Devdas that would go on to become signature tropes in Mr. Bhansali's later films. There are lush fountains in Devdas' house and Chandramukhi's courthouse. There are the huge chandeliers. There is a scene related to payal (anklet). There is the burning of hand scene. There is the repeated mention of the word guroor (vanity). Dev tells Paro that even the moon does have that guroor about its beauty as much as she has. Paro describes Dev to her husband by saying, "Jaise woh shareer, aur hum parchhai. Woh hamara pyaar bhi hai aur guroor bhi." He was the body, I was the soul. He is my love and he is my vanity. There is the mirror scene. In the first meeting between Dev and Chandramukhi, the mirror in the background shatters into pieces. All these would go on to have a presence in his other films as well.
For me, the most stunning aspect of the film is its gorgeous climax that is exhilarating and moving at the same time. Devdas manages to reach Manikpur where Paro stays. He had promised Paro that he will visit her at least once before he dies. He is at her doorstep, lying beneath a tree, and is dying. Paro sees the commotion outside her house and gets to know that a man is lying outside. One of her family members tells her, "Pichle janam me yahan se koi mitti le gaya hoga." He must have come to return something that he owed in his last lifetime. Paro could sense something is wrong. There is always a sense of intuition in the characters of Mr. Bhansali. Paro eventually finds out that the man is none other than her Deva, and, then, she runs to meet him. However, her husband orders his servants to stop her, and close the gates. The cries of a young Paro calling her friend can be heard again. Arey, O Deva. All through the film, Paro was running after Dev. When a young Dev left for his studies, Paro ran after him. When Dev comes back from London, Paro runs to meet him. When Dev leaves his house, Paro runs after him to make him stop. When he comes to meet in her in his last days, she again runs after him. 

The final moments of the film are full of red color. Paro is wearing a red-and-white saree. The huge curtains in her house are red. The floor and the walls of her house are red. While running, Paro spills the aalta, the red color pigment. She walks over it and her footsteps leave the red mark when she runs. The gate of her house is red. Devdas is lying on a bed of red flowers. A tragic moment looks utterly gorgeous. There is no other color that depicts the passion of love as red does. Red represented love, red represented Dev. In Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka, Paro plays with the red color when she gets to know that her Dev was coming back. When Dev came to meet her at her place, she was putting her feet in aalta. Like a new bride that leaves her footsteps in aalta, Paro had done the same earlier, when Dev came back from London. In Dola Re Dola, Paro and Chandramukhi dance in a palatial room that is again red, symbolic of their love for Dev. In the film's title, there is sindoor present in Dev's name and the background is red. It is only fitting that death comes to Dev on a bed of red flowers. The lamp, representing Dev, is finally extinguished. And, as Paro sang earlier, "Tu door jo tha to paas hi tha, ab paas hai to door hai kyun," they are so close yet they seem so distant. Perhaps, only in heaven, they will have the opportunity to meet again.
Books In Movies:
Direct Taxes
Cases and Materials on Code of Civil Procedure, Pleadings and Practise With Model Forms,
and Co-operative Tribunal Journal
A book by Charles Dickens
Other Reading:
1. On the Moon in the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali—Link
2. On Bajirao MastaniLink
3. On BlackLink
4. On the weaving motif in the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali—Link
5. On Goliyon Ki Raasleea Ram-LeelaLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Nadi sagar se milne kyun jaati hai, surajmukhi hamesha suraj ki taraf hi kyun dekhta hai."
—Paro, Devdas