Saturday, March 15, 2008

But there's no singing in the book

Yup, I am now reading Bollywood books: Sarachandra Chattopadhyay's Devdas. Nobody can say they didn't see that coming!

I haven't seen any of the numerous film versions based on this book, but it was quite interesting, since Devdas (the main dude's name) is apparently the Young Werther of Indian literature. And while it seems to bother some viewers of the films, I found it refreshing that, like Werther or the Byronic hero types, Devdas isn't really likeable. He's a big jerk. The translator's introduction talked about him as a metaphor for self-destruction, which on one hand makes him an odd "romantic" hero, but on the other, it seems totally appropriate.

Maybe it's a whole karma thing...but it reminded me of a few of the movies I've seen, like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, in which the characters' problems are largely the result of mistakes they made in the past. Or like the whole family estrangement theme in Main Hoon Na. All the decisions they made seemed reasonable at the time, and yet, being right doesn't mean they aren't miserable. In Devdas' case, it's not Romeo and Juliet, but the downfall of a guy who screwed up his own life, without even noticing it at the time, until it was too late.

I'm curious how the female heroine will translate into more romantic versions of the story, since in the book she's delightfully bold, totally willing to flout convention and face up to life-changing public shame, if that's what happens. Actually, both important women are more tragic heroes than Devdas is. He's more of an anti-hero. The women's shared tragic flaw is that they have these strong qualities, but they're wasting their love on someone who's unworthy of them.

But then, in the pool of guys they know, at least he stands out as different and, thus interesting. Always a problem...

1 comment:

a ppcc representative said...

Ughh, the PPCC largely can't stand Devdas for just the reasons you've listed as being integral to the book: that is, Devdas' narcissistic self-hate and general unlikeability, and the fact that two powerful women should be so undone by him. Aarghhh. We've seen the 2002 version with SRK and Aishwarya (lovely songs, but otherwise awfulness) and the 1970s Bachchan re-take, "Muqaddar ka Sikandar". Which is DA BOMB, but still on the narcissistic annoying side.