Why Devdas never dies, even when he does

The seventeenth film adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Bengali novel Devdas is tellingly titled, Aur Devdas. And therein lies a clue about the story’s adaptability time and again. There are two ways of reading it: as either one more Devdas, or, in the more loosely informed manner of asking, what else is happening, Devdas?

What more does Devdas have to offer that filmmakers keep returning to it? Do audiences never tire of it?

Sudhir Mishra, director of this version, likens it to the works of Shakespeare. Quite like Romeo and Juliet, one could say, which has possibly been made over a hundred times in as many languages. Mishra goes one step further, dedicating his version of Aur Devdas to the bard.

“It’s a dramatic film. I’ve dedicated the film to Sarat Chandra babu and Shakespeare. The Shakespeare that was stuck in me for several years is not any specific Shakespearean play. But his overall understanding of life forms the major part of the film. It’s set in India’s political atmosphere and it’s a very political film,” he said at a screenwriting meet recently. The film stars Rahul Bhat, Richa Chadda and Aditi Rao Hydari.


Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel was first published in 1917, and the first adaptation was a silent film in 1927. Then the prince-turned-actor-director PC Barua made it into a Bengali talkie in 1935, with himself in the lead.

The next year, he cast singer Kundan Lal Saigal (who was seen in the Bengali version as a harmonium player) as the doomed hero, and re-made it in Hindi. That’s when the story of Devdas found a national audience (watch a superb print here). But not quite content with his output on the subject, Barua went on to film it in Assamese the following year, achieving a hat-trick of sorts in his obsession with Devdas. One more adaptation cropped up in 1936, this time in Tamil, with Saigal singing in Tamil!

In 1953, the story was filmed as Devadasu and released in Tamil and Telugu. It became the first recipient of the Filmfare Award for Best Film South.

Bimal Roy, who had assisted PC Barua, took up the challenge of telling Devdas’s story once more. This is when the story of Devdas (1955) started turning to putty in the hands of its director. Taking artistic liberties of interpretation, Roy inserted a crucial scene not in the book.

The book’s two female characters, Paro and Chandramukhi, never meet. But in Roy’s version, they cross each other’s paths, although not a word is exchanged between them, played by Suchitra Sen and Vyjanthimala, respectively. This was the beginning of the end of faithful adaptations. Still, the film, starring Dilip Kumar and its enigmatic heroines, was a critical triumph, winning both National and Filmfare awards.


Later, Anurag Kashyap would fleetingly dwell on this very scene in his version, Dev.D (2009) where the two women cross each other’s paths at a railway station. Sanjay Leela Bhansali would, of course, make it a sub-plot involving a dance-off between the lovely ladies in Devdas (2002).

What about the woman’s point of view, though? When Telugu actress Vijaya Nirmala decided to cast her husband Krishna Ghattamaneni – known popularly as Superstar Krishna – in the tragic avatar (Devadasu, 1974), with her playing his childhood sweetheart, Paro. It flopped. Yet, the story of Devdas continued, going in for the bizarre, in Devadasu Malli Puttadu (1978), where Devdas dies and is re-incarnated to meet an old, lovelorn Paro!

Further adaptations were seen in Bengal, Kerala and Chennai. But the story wasn’t confined geographically to the regional belts of India. It was turned into films at least twice in Bangladesh and twice in Pakistan as well.

Mishra sums it up when he describes his version. “This Paro carries a difference, she is not the one who after the interval accepts that her situation would just be like this. She’s grappling with her hardships. This Devdas not just dies under the influence of alcohol, but is struggling with his life. This Chandramukhi is something else. The story is different though the characters are the same.”

The intermission, something of an Indian cinematic invention, is the make or break point deciding the fate of movies in this country. It’s when the filmmaker decides how to twist the plot. It is when the audience decides if they want to go back to it. Aur what is left of Devdas to discover?

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.