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Literature / Devdas

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Chandramukhi, the titular character and Paro.

Devdas is a Bengali Romance novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Essentially, it is a retelling of the Krishna, Radha, and Meera myths, the relationships between its three protagonists - Devdas, Parvati, and Chandramukhi - paralleling the Hindu deities. The story is similar to the book The Sorrows of Young Werther. Devdas is part of a rich Bengali family who used to play with Childhood Sweetheart Paro. After Devdas comes back from England finishing his education, both Paro and he fall in love and Paro's mother deigns to inform Devdas's mother of arranging a marriage between them. Devdas's father disapproves because Paro comes from a middle class trader family and Devdas is too weak willed to stand up to him. Paro gets married to a much older wealthy widower and Devdas spends his days drunk and in mourning. He is introduced to a Courtesan Chandramukhi in Calcutta who falls in love with him. And so, Paro keeps thinking of Devdas, Devdas keeps thinking of Paro and drinking himself to death and Chandramukhi falls in love with a drunk Devdas who never responds to her love.

The novella has been made into a film in many Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Assamese. The most notable adaptations include a 1955 film by Bimal Roy, a 2002 film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali starring Shah Rukh Khan as Devdas, Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi and Aishwarya Rai as Paro (all three pictured above) and Dev.D, a modern day and loosely-derived take of the novel set against contemporary Punjab and Delhi, where familial ties are negotiated by the traditions of patriarchy and marriages are reduced to a game of power and "honour".

This work provides examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Obviously.
  • Always Second Best: Chandramukhi
  • Arranged Marriage: The cause of all of Devdas's problems.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Devdas grows one and degenerates into a progressively disheveled appearance as he drowns his sorrow. In India, the term “Devdas” is used to describe any bearded alcoholic.
  • Betty and Veronica: Chandramukhi is Veronica, Paro is Betty.
    • Its also been interpreted the other way around, with Chandramukhi as Betty and Paro as Veronica.
  • Byronic Hero: Devdas.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The whole mess could be avoided if Devdas' parents allowed him marry Paro. Devdas' father seems to realizes this in his final moments, going so far as asking Paro's forgiveness when she visits him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Devdas crosses this after Paro's marriage.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Devdas's dad.
  • Downer Ending: Devdas dies and Paro is not even able to see his face because of the rules of Purdah.
    • It's worse in the 2002 film. The last four minutes of the film consists of Paro fleeing her mansion in a desperate attempt to reach a dying Devdas, tears streaming down her face, all the while being pursued by her in-laws. If you're not familiar with the story, you try to take some small comfort in that Paro will be there for him in his final moments. To make things worse, it's subtly implied that Devdas (who sees Paro running towards him) doesn't know if it's really her or if he's just hallucinating. So he dies, not really knowing for sure if she still loves him as much as he loved her.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Why Devdas does not appear sober after Paro's marriage
  • Drinking Game: In-universe, A reason for Devdas's death
  • The Film of the Book: Several times.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Chandramukhi.
  • Idiot Ball: Devdas. If he just stood up to his father, then Paro would not have been married to another.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: Kali-babu is Paro's son-in-law, so this trope kind of applies.
  • The Item Number: In the version with Aishwarya Rai (Paro) and Madhuri Dixit (Chandramukhi), the "Dola Re Dola" number.
  • Karma Houdini: In the 2002 version, Devdas' sister-in-law Kumud. She's the one who reminds Devdas' mother (who was previously all right with the marriage proposal) of Paro's lower-class status, thereby ensuring Parental Marriage Veto. Later, she's shown plotting with her husband to steal the key to the family vault and run away with it all. Devdas catches them and decides that trying to set Kumud on fire would work better than, say, telling his mother about their plan (although to be fair, this is right after his father's death so he's even more unhinged). Of course, Kumud successfully convinces everyone that Devdas has gone insane, and as a result he's thrown out of the house. Later in the film, comments are made about the family's financial and social ruin, so it looks like they got away.
  • Love Hurts - And how!
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Or in the case of Devdas, dead
  • Love Triangle: Paro, Chandramukhi and Devdas.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: In the original novel, Devdas is initially disgusted with Chandramukhi for her profession, yet fascinated (and comforted) by her. He even marries her, but only after she gives up her profession to be with him, and he is always dogged by his feelings for Paro. It's very much a case of the Madonna-Whore Complex.