Let me state categorically : I do NOT like this story. You have a not particularly likeable young man who gives up his childhood sweetheart due to family pressures. Instead of making the best of his decision, he becomes an alcoholic depressive and slumps about in non-salubrious (but astonishingly beautiful!) surroundings. Then you have a nautch girl, so lovely and talented that she could demand her terms with anyone. Instead she develops a deep love for this most unlovable drunk who is always moping over another woman! And our leading lady marries a man richer than the one who gave her up, bowing again to family pressures. And does she make the best of life? Of course not! She is forever dreaming of her lost love. I could shake them all!
Yet seemingly I am very much in the minority. This story by the popular Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938) has been very dear to the Indian audience and has been made into 12+ films in different languages. I have seen the Hindi version of Devdas (1936) starring Saigal in the lead and the 1955 version by Bimal Roy starring Dilip Kumar, both acclaimed films.
So given my annoyance with the lead characters you’ll wonder why I chose to see the movie. Very simply, the music which, released ahead like for all Bollywood films, enthralled me from the moment I heard it. When I saw the film, as expected, I was annoyed with the characters for making such rubbish of their lives. But I came away with some visuals which will live with me forever. Oh the beauty of the two ladies! Oh the sumptuous setting! Oh the costumes and jewellery! Oh that scene with Aishwarya running through the many doors, aalta on her feet, sari flowing behind her! Oooooooh The Music! The director Sanjay Leela Bansali has created a visual feast which pleases my art loving eyes. Credit goes especially to cinematographer Binod Kumar Pradhan.
The music composed by Ismail Darbar is, in my opinion, one of the best albums to come out of Bollywood in the last decade. The lyrics by Nusrat Badr in his Bollywood debut are equally memorable. You can listen to the whole album here.
Silsila ye chahat ka – Shreya Ghoshal : Truly sensuous, this is a siren’s call by Shreya. One of my daughter’s favourite songs.
Maar daala – Kavita Krishnamurthy, Kay Kay : Madhuri’s dance and her costume are wonderful, the song is good.
Bairi Piya – Shreya Ghoshal, Udit Narayan : A slow, romantic song with a certain lulling quality I like very much. Both singers are extraordinarily good. When Udit Narayan first starts ‘kaise kahoon’, I always take a deep breath of satisfaction!
Kaahe Chhed Mohe – Kavita Krishnamurthy, Birju Maharaj, Madhuri Dixit : A fantastic Kathak song with an unforgettable dance performance by Madhuri, its another memorable number. Kavita’s voice is not my favourite but she has done such a wonderful job of this classically based song that my respect for her went up enormously.
Chalak Chalak – Shreya Ghoshal, Udit Narayan, Vinod Rathod : I do like Shah Rukh in his Bengali babu dhoti-kurta look and in association, I like this song too ! Madhuri dances most alluringly.
Hamesha Tumko Chaha – Kavita Krisnamurthy, Udit Narayan : I was addicted to this song for a while and HAD to listen to it daily. The tabla sounds so good! The composer has used the Ooli, the sounds that Bengali women make at auspicious times, and the sound of the conch very well.
Woh Chand Jaisi Ladki – Udit Narayan : My husband’s favourite song from this album, Udit Narayan is so very talented!
Morey Piya – Shreya Ghoshal, Jaspinder Narula : I don’t like Jaspinder’s portion of the song, which I find a bit grating so I used to skip this song once upon a time. But Shreya’s part is really exquisite, so I have started listening to it nowadays.
Dola Re Dola – Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shreya Ghoshal, Kay Kay : The dance is such a visual delight – two of the most beautiful women in the world without doubt! Again we have the Bengali Ooli used to good effect. The song has a joyful, teasing aspect which is very pleasing. All the singers do an admirable job.
Because the songs are both a visual and auditory feast, I am going to present not one but quite a few of them. Choose what you will to view.
1. Silisila Ye Chahat Ka – for the astonishing beauty of Aishwarya, her graceful dancing and Shreya’s lovely voice of which I am a true fan.
2. Kahe Chhed Chhed Mohe – For Madhuri’s radiance, her dancing prowess and sheer sensuality and Kavita’s wonderful singing. Credit of course to Birju Maharaj for his excellent choreography.
3. Hanesha Tumko Chaha for the breath-taking settings (see the house!!) and the story telling
4. Dola re Dola – for the pleasure of watching the two beauties do their thing – and to honour the choreographer Saroj Khan who has done a great job!