Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Inspiration: Devdas

There are some Bollywood movies that I refer to as my "Music Only Movies." When somebody asks me, "Hey, what Bollywood movies have really great soundtracks and nice picturizations?", my Music Only Movies are the go-to. They're just what their name suggests: they're really only worth it for the music.

Now, some people are probably going to smack me in the face for saying that, because the 2002 adaptation of the popular novel is immensely...erm, popular. On the surface, there's a lot to love: an all-star cast (with Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, and Shahrukh Khan headlining), lush scenery, a ridiculously huge budget, and three--count 'em, three--flawless dance sequences featuring Dixit to prove it. And yeah, the music is goddamn fantastic; few soundtracks can top it. So what's the problem?

Enjoy this picture full of gratuitous pretty, because at its heart, that's what Devdas is: an onslaught of Pretty Thing after Pretty Thing. The movie spends so much time being beautiful, it forgets to provide most of its characters with personalities. Granted, Bollywood movies are notorious for being grandiose and gorgeous. But Devdas makes it feel more like a detached fairytale than a dream come true.

That being said, it's really, really nice to look at and the music is mind-bogglingly good. Hence, Music Only Movie!

First up, let's take a look at Aishwarya Rai, aka "Paro." As I've mentioned before, using Rai as a source of inspiration is dangerous because she's so unbearably beautiful. But the way the makeup artists subtly altered her makeup throughout the film is, in my humble opinion, proof that makeup is a carefully-considered art.

Consider these images from the first half of the film: most of the colors are soft, glowy, and barely-there. The eyeliner is concentrated on her top lid and she's wearing super-full false lashes, enhancing her doe-eyed look. Nothing is particularly sharp, dark, or overdone--even her brows are natural and light by Bollywood standards. This is meant to make her look youthful and innocent.

As the film progresses and Paro becomes a more jaded, mature character, her makeup becomes darker. Of note: the images on the top row from her wedding day, where burgundy makes its appearance and her lips are more foiled than glossy, and the deep taupe look in the bottom left and center pictures. Her lower lashline is darkened in both looks, as compared to the bare lower lashline seen in the previous pictures.

This is not to say that they never give Paro those glowy neutrals again--see the bottom right image. Rather, the darker makeup doesn't show up until later. (Also, I think the neutral looks they give her later on aren't quite as soft and glossy as the earlier ones, but maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.)

Enter Madhuri Dixit, that great goddess who inspires the likes of Lisa Eldridge! (Comparing her to Kate Winslet, though...not quite accurate. I'd say she's even more iconic, a la Meryl Streep.) Dixit plays Chandramukhi, a "hooker with a heart of gold" character.

Note that she wears darker golds and burgundies when she's in "full courtesan" mode (on the right), whereas her day-to-day makeup features more mauve and pink shades. I always felt like this was meant to highlight the character's duality, ie, "she is more than what you think she is."

Two snaps and a clap for Kirron Kher! She doesn't get enough love, especially for her work in Devdas. Please take a moment to appreciate how this woman lights up the screen. She plays Paro's mother. Interestingly, her makeup is similar to Paro's in the first half of the film, but not the same: the colors are similar, but not as softly blended, and the finishes are more matte.

I will never get over images of unfairly beautiful women soaking their hair in a fountain. I know it's Bollywood Period Piece Trope #1, but it gets me every time.

I want everyone to really enjoy that picture on the right, because it took a lot of stopping and starting to capture it. I mean, I love "Dhola Re," so it was as much for me as it was for the blog...but still. STILL.

I'll finish this off by saying that if you're interested in Bollywood, but you've never seen Devdas, you should probably give it a watch. Yeah, I know, I said I only watch it for the music these days...but I did watch it the whole way through several times. It's iconic, after all!


  1. "Pensive dude watching ladies dance from a corner" seems to be another trope of these court scenes. This one reminded me of my all-time favorite Bollywood scene (not that I've seen many): "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" from Mughal-e-Azam.

    1. Mughal-e-Azam is actually another one of my Music Only Movies, LOL! Madhubala is gorgeous and the music is incomparable, but uuuuugh, the movie is so boring and there's no chemistry between the leads.

  2. Wow, thanks for posting this - what a dance number!

    1. They definitely did the dancing right in this movie; definitely check out some of Dixit's mujras from the film!