Sanjay Leela Bhansali has created quite a reputation for himself with super hit movies like Khamoshi and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Having established himself he started off on old classics. First Devdas. A Bengali novel, much beloved by generations of Begalis, Devdas had already appeared on the big screen in two versions. The first one had the legendary Kundanlal Saigal (K L Saigal or just Saigal of the nasal voice that everyone has either heard or heard of) as Devdas and the second had the baap of all actors, Dilip Kumar playing the heartbroken hero with the beauteous Suchitra Sen playing Paro. Both told the story as it was written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. You don’t really mess around with a classic that has practically entered into the collective consciousness of millions of people. Unless you are Sanjay Leela Bhansali deciding to do your own jig with the tale.
Devdas, as originally written had Paro marrying to spite the zamindaar family of Devdas. She marries someone richer than Devdas’ family. Unfortunately the man she marries was married earlier and not a nice guy. So her existence becomes one of unhappiness and misery. After the marriage, the two estranged lovers do not meet till the end when Devdas is dying. In the meanwhile, having rejected Paro for his family, Devdas ends up living a life of heartbreak drowned in consumption – a life in which he strikes lucky and gets Chandramukhi. Paro is only a name to Chandramukhi. The tale is of multiple heartbreaks – Devdas’, Paro’s and Chandramukhi’s. Had Paro been happily married, the tale wouldn’t have held the same power. Had Devdas returned Chandramukhi’s love, the crisis of the story would be diluted. Had Paro and Chandramukhi met and bonded the magic of battling a shadow would end. But in Bhansali’s Devdas, all this happens. Paro is married to a good guy but she carries her flame for Devdas, symbolically and as an actual flame in the movie. Devdas tells Chandramukhi that he loves her as much as he loves Paro. Chandramukhi and Paro not only meet and bond, but they also sing and dance together. This wasn’t the Devdas that everyone knows. This could have been Rahul and Anjali in a sequel of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai called Kuch Nahin Hota Hai.
After Devdas, Bhansali turned his attention to Saraswatichandra. As popular and loved as Devdas is in Bengal, Saraswatichandra by Govardhanram Madhavaram Tripathi holds the same place in Gujarat. Made into a movie with Nutan essaying the pivotal role of Kumud (full name Kumudsundari – when the novel was first released about 70 odd years ago, every educated Gujarati had a daughter named Kumud!). Surely everyone remembers the fabulous song Chandan sa badan from the movie. In the original story, after Kumud’s marriage, the two star-crossed lovers do not meet. She is married to a no good, wife beater. His family is solidly behind him. She is unable to break free till the end when her husband dies and she joins an ashram – where she meets Saraswatichandra again – he is also in the same ashram. Bhansali decided to use Saraswatichandra as his foray into the lucrative world of television. An ongoing serial now, Saraswatichandra is a far cry from the original story.
There are strange and impossible situations like Saraswatichandra and his parents living with Kumud’s family in the first half. Stranger still is the fact the somehow Saraswatichandra lives in Kumud’s married home after her marriage. To drag the serial on, there are vamps (not there in the original), devious plans of murder (not there in the original), fights, chases and all sorts of other masala till the only recognisable thing from the original story are the names Saraswatichandra and Kumud. In fact the way the serial is shaping up, it wouldn’t be too surprising to have Saraswatichandra and Kumud marrying in the end.
Creative license, adaptation and interpretation are the justifications for such sweeping changes. But really, shouldn’t one just leave classics alone and call their versions / interpretations something else?
Image Source: Sanjay Leela Bhansali