The Tribune - Spectrum

, August 25, 2002
Lead Article

Dil Chahta heartbreak!
Suruchi Kaushik

Dil Chahta Hai... no heartbreak!

Take One: A newly wed bride is re-united by her husband with her lover in Italy, only for her to realise it is the husband she wants to stay with...(Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

Take Two: A rich young brat goes to Goa and hooks up with a girl in the hope of "getting lucky", only to get "dumped" for his money...(Dil Chahta Hai, 2001, directed by Farhan Akhtar)

Take Three: A lover, incapable of taking a stand against his father, loses his lady-love and proceeds to drown his woes in alcohol... (Devdas, 2002, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

THREE contrasting angles to love shown in as many years set me thinking—what is generation Y’s take on love? Which of the above would most closely reflect the typical lover of this generation?

While the intensity of love and its loss depicted in Devdas was touching and made many cry, it also raised a question in my mind—how many of my peers would tackle a broken heart with alcohol as a crutch? A society where just about every individual, male or female, has a sense of self that extends far beyond the parental or marital identity, cannot possibly identify with Devdas’s spineless reaction.


Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest extravaganza, though, misses this point entirely. Devdas is a story that held the attention of the last two generations with its passion and pain. More importantly, the story, with its starkly austere backdrop, allowed the reader, and later the viewer, to concentrate on the emotional underplay of the characters. Bhansali’s Devdas, however, is an artist’s interpretation of an age-old, oft-repeated story. Just as M.F. Husain’s Durga evokes a whole multitude of reactions— from those who would rather see Durga as the icon they’ve always been bowing to, to those who would appreciate art simply for art’s sake—so does this latest adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s story. The glamour and glitz does not match with the older generation’s idea of a narration of this story. If it is emotions they expect to get from Devdas, they are very disappointed with all the gaudy fluff surrounding it. For the younger generation, wary as it is of the concept of "till death do us part", it would take at least two viewings before they could tune out the appeal of the sets and tune in to the emotional undercurrents of the story. Neither generation perhaps has the patience!

The boy-meets-girl formula goes down well initially. A room shrouded in white, a flame burning even in a storm—all indicate that someone is being awaited. And when the wait ends, Paro’s (Aishwarya Rai) excitement knows no bounds. Conveyed by the twitch of her foot and her reluctance to reveal her face to her lover, it is difficult for the viewer to remain unmoved.

Tragedy strikes in the form of opposition from Devdas’s (Shah Rukh Khan) family. He buckles under the pressure. Paro puts her family’s and her own honour at risk, not only because she wants to give her Deva one last chance, but also because she cannot believe her lover can possibly inflict the pain of separation on either of them. The betrayal nonetheless happens. There were many in the theatre who identified with Paro’s shock, anger and hurt even at this point.

Then Devdas turns to alcohol. This is where the intellectual deviation of the younger audience begins. A more comprehensible reaction perhaps was that of Sameer’s (Salman Khan) in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. To lessen the pain of missing Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) and to await her return, he loses himself in his music, working on the one other thing that gives him as much happiness. Devdas appears not only not to have any such passion, but also not to have ever needed one. His affluence ensures that his enjoyment of the expensive pleasures of life is not hampered by lack of funds!

Cut to Dil Chahta Hai, where Aakash (Aamir Khan), despite losing Shalini (Preity Zinta), the only woman he’d ever felt strongly about, continues to attend important-looking meetings. The younger, career-oriented generation certainly understands and identifies with this!

DCH has another bold solution for heartache—finding another equally "lovable" companion. And Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) is shown to love each romantic interest just as genuinely and with just as much abandon. In a generation where male-female friendships are a lot more acceptable, this may not be entirely palatable perhaps, but is certainly not out of the ordinary.

That is not to say that they don’t understand the beauty of unconditional love or feel enough to appreciate its undying nature. It would be humanly impossible to remain untouched by the scene of simmering passion that Bhansali creates in Devdas during the song More piya.... Complete with flowing water and muted moonlight, it is as boldly sensual as only a Radha-Krishna raas-leela can be! And when Sidharth (Akshay Khanna) sings Kaisi hai yeh rut... in DCH, many a youngster’s heart echoes the lyrics – that to the one in love it feels as though all of nature and its creations have come together to celebrate and in doing so, have made his life all the more beautiful.

And nor do they evade the pain. Sameer, banished from his music teacher’s house, in HDDCS, lies face down in a desert with the lyrics in the background saying Tadap tadap ke is dil se.... Very few have been unlucky enough to have experienced love so passionate that its loss hurts till the entire being cries out in agony. But would the current breed of lovers identify with the Hamesha tumko chaha... of Devdas? Perhaps not. Somewhere the sense of self-preservation kicks in and a love that has turned self-destructive is snuffed out. Afterwards, suffering the strains (pun unintended!) of Tanhayee... temporarily, as Aakash does in DCH, is a whole lot easier than forever living with a mirage of the one you lost! "Pulling the band-aid" on the emotional wound in one go is perhaps a more painless technique devised by the generation Y to bear heartache.

So is this generation more ruthless? No. Selfish? A little. Impatient? Extremely.

And yet, to ignore the romance between Sidharth and Tara (Dimple Kapadia) in DCH would be hypocritical for it is as much a reality of this generation as is the romance of Aakash or Sameer. Unconditional love for an older woman, with no possibility of a future—it is something this generation is capable of. But when it ends, it leaves one with the feeling that Sidharth’s life will still move on —incomplete due to her loss, but certainly enriched by this experience.

And that is why it is not only the presence of a Devdas in our midst that raises a doubt in my mind. What I also wonder is whether a Paro could exist! To love a man for years after he has let her down at such a critical point? Romantics may argue that everyone’s "recovery period" is different, but I am skeptical. Surely, it is the immediate that takes over! Upon acquiring three grown-up children and winning their love, would she not at least try to do the same with her husband? No smart, attractive, confident young woman could possibly identify with someone who could not fight off the ghost of an ex-lover!

What also strikes me as unreal in Paro’s love, and, for that matter, in Chandramukhi’s (Madhuri Dixit) as well, is the belief that for a woman, respect and admiration are as much a part of love as is romance. When Paro realises Devdas is not willing to take even half the chance that she did in coming to meet him in the dead of the night, her anger and sense of betrayal should have destroyed any respect she felt for him! A sense of identification with Chandramukhi’s love is also made impossible by its survival in the face of Devdas’s contempt.

For a generation with a strong sense of individuality and independence, sometimes bordering on the selfish in fact, the characters of Devdas are paper-thin. Pumping them with life using opulent sets and props, Bhansali has certainly made them watchable, but they remain highly removed from reality. Unlike the characters of DCH and HDDCS, they exist only in the leaves of a book or the screen of a theatre.