Bhubaneswar:6/5/18;When Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote Devdas in 1917, he made an impression not only on Bengalis, but on the entire nation. Since then, the novel has lent itself to 12 official screen adaptations (10 completed and two abandoned), from the 1928 Naresh Mitra silent version produced by Eastern Film Syndicate to this year’s glossy by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The subject has also been the inspiration for scores of Indian films made in several languages. So deep-rooted is the theme’s impact on the Indian psyche that the film almost rises to the level of a myth in the Indian context. No wonder, Indian filmmakers return to the subject every alternate decade with the intention of looking at it afresh, giving it a fresh interpretation and reaching a new audience. As D.K. Sircar (the son of Birendranath Sircar, the original owner of the famous New Theatres) mentioned the other day, it’s going to be an unending innings with many batsmen still waiting in the wings to enter the field.
Tragedy as box-office material
We all know cinema started as a vehicle for providing leisure-time entertainment for the masses. For many of its early years, films had to have a happy ending so that the audience left the theatre with the confidence that the hero and heroine with whom they had identified would live happily ever after. Even the world-famous German director F.W. Murnau had to provide an alternative happy ending to his classic film The Last Laugh, where the doorman, brilliantly played by Emil Jannings, wins a lottery and becomes the owner of the very same posh hotel from where he was earlier kicked out after being humiliated and stripped of his uniform. Murnau justified the alternative ending through a title card that states “After all, we are watching a film and I should not disappoint my audience”. What a frank and bold statement to make within a film in 1924!
Devdas was perhaps the first Indian film to break the hitherto accepted convention that ‘tragedy is taboo’ for cinemagoers. In fact, the 1935 New Theatres’ versions in Bengali and Hindi directed by P.C. Barua were such a huge success that thereafter tragedy became a mainstay for the box-office success of a film. Actors who specialised in such tragic roles became icons of Indian cinema. (The name to be mentioned here is Dilip Kumar, who played the title role in the 1956 Bimal Roy version)
Closer home, the story has fascinated Odia filmmaker Mrutunjaya Sahoo, who is now making a film on it. Shooting for Sahoo’s ‘Nayaka Ra Naa Devdas’ is now underway at different locations outside Odisha like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, and Semiliguda and Paralakhemundi in the state.
The cast of the film includes actor Asit Patra of ‘Bhairab’ fame who plays the protagonist Devdas while Bhoomika Das plays Paro. Further, Ollywood diva Anu Choudhury will be seen in the character of Chandramukhi and Bobby Mishra will essay the role of Devdas’ friend Chunilal.
Talking to about playing the legendary character of Devdas, Asit said, “I always love to take up challenging subjects. I have done different types of characters before and with this film, I am challenging myself again. As the story is well-known to all, it becomes even more difficult to play the characters. I have read the novel and tried to understand it better and so I will put in my best.”
Meanwhile, it will be a test of sorts for teenaged actor Bhoomika who will play the character of Paro, .Similarly actress Anu Choudhury has essayed the role of Chandramukhi.