The film compares the love between Dev and Paro to be similar to the one between Krishna and Radha. Krishna and Radha were childhood lovers. They married different people but all their life, they loved each other. Just before Paro's wedding, Dev wounds her and metaphorically marries her. All their life they loved each other. Dev and Paro were, thus, like Krishna and Radha. This is also evident in the song Morey Piya where Dev and Paro are shown to be doing Raas Leela, like Krishna and Radha. The lyrics say, "Dhumak dhumak kar naach rahi thi meri Radha pyaari, jaane kahan se Raas rachaane aaya chhaila girdhaari." Thumping, my lovely Radha was dancing. Who knows from where this Krishna has come to play Raas.
Chandramukhi is Meera, the mystic poet who gave up her royal life to become a devotee of Krishna. At some point, Paro comes to Chandramukhi's place to inquire about Dev's whereabouts. Chandramukhi touches Paro's feet, and introduces herself as Devdasi—a devotee of Devdas. She tells Paro that she has not seen Dev for nearly six months. Paro believes it to be a lie, and storms inside Chandramukhi's room. Instead of Dev, she only finds an idol of Krishna. Chandramukhi tells her, "Hamari nazar se dekhogi, toh chaaro taraf paogi unko. Aaj bhi mahakta hai yeh kamra unki khushboo se. Main toh sirf unki pooja karti hun." If she sees from her perspective, she will find Dev everywhere. His fragrance still lingers in the room. She only worships him. In this aspect, Dev is Krishna to Chandramukhi's Meera. Like God, he is omnipresent to her. She has not even removed the spilled chalice from which Dev used to drink. On seeing Chandramukhi's devotion, Paro remarks, "Ek tawaif jogan ban gayi." A courtesan has become a devotee. In this scene, Chandramukhi is dressed entirely in saffron, the same color often associated with jogans, such as Meera. Later, in the song, Chalak Chalak, Chandramukhi is again compared to Meera and the lyrics say, "Hey naache Meera, jogan banke, O mere Ghanshaam. Naache Meera leherake balkhaake, O mere Ghanshaam." Meera dances like she is dancing for her Krishna.
Paro is more like Radha, and Chandramukhi is more like Meera, but they have been shown to also have the traits of the other. Paro's devotion for Dev by lighting a diya (a lamp) for him is like Meera's devotion for Krishna. Amitava Nag in his essay From Devdas to Dev writes, "Parvati’s wait for Devdas attains mythical heights analogous to Radha’s love for Krishna, or Meera Bai’s selfless sacrifice and devotion to Sri Krishna. In Parvati’s submission to Devdas she inherits the traits of both Radha and Meera Bai—a rare incarnation which obviates her treatment as a mere human character." In Kaahe Chhed Mode, Chandramukhi dances on the song where Radha is complaining that Krishna kissed her. Dhaai shaam rok lai, rok lai, rok lai. Dhaai shaam rok lai, aur chakmaka mukh choom lai. Krishna stopped me, stopped me. Krishna stopped me, and he suddenly kissed me on my face. Thus, she has also been given something related to Radha. Paro and Chandramukhi are both Radha and Meera and this becomes more clear when the film treats the two of them as equal lovers of Dev.
Chandramukhi might be a courtesan, with a bad reputation in the society, but the film treats her love for Dev almost as important as Paro's love for Dev, and here in the lies the film's subversiveness. There is a point in the film where Dev tells Chandramukhi that for him, Paro and Chandramukhi are like his two eyes. Paro is sentimental and vivacious. Chandramukhi is delicate and demure. Paro is fickle, like a doe, gushing like a river. She is the liar, the butterfly, and the moon. Chandramukhi is a poem, and a ballad. Everyone loves Paro, but Chandramukhi is unloved by all except Dev. But at the end of it, they are Dev's eyes through which he sees the world. They might be different from each other in person, but, they share the love for the same man. Paro's face is compared with the moon; Chandramukhi's name itself means who has a face like the moon. They both worship Dev. In Hamesha Tumko Chaha, Paro sings, "Tumhe dil ne hai pooja, pooja, pooja. Aur pooja kuch bhi nahin." My heart worshipped only you, and worshipped no one else. Later, Chandramukhi also tells Paro that she worships Dev. Main toh sirf unki pooja karti hun. When they are taking leave from Dev, they both go and touch his feet. At some point, Dev gives Paro the kangan (the bangle) that his grandmother kept for Dev's future wife. When Paro meets Chandramukhi, she gives the same bangle to her, because as Dev's other worshipper, she should have also the right to wear it. In this way, she gives Chandramukhi something that was meant for Dev's wife. The film treats Chandramukhi with immense grace, and gives her a stature equal to Dev's wife, just like Paro's.
Moments before Paro's wedding to an aristocrat, Dev comes to meet her and tries to convince her to marry him. Paro is angry at his indecisiveness, and tells him to go away. Dev's father had insulted her because of her family's lower stature in society. After her marriage, she would have a stature equivalent to Dev's family. She would have everything—the virtues, the beauty, and the riches. Dev cannot bear Paro's guroor (vanity), and tells her even the beauteous moon is not as vain as her. Paro replies it's because the moon has dark spots and is scarred, while she is pure. Hurt by Paro's stinging words, Dev takes a pearl necklace and hits Paro on her head, giving her a scar. She starts bleeding, and Dev uses her blood as vermilion and spreads it over the mid-part of her head, symbolically marrying her in the process. They might be officially married to different people, but in their heart, they are married to each other. She is given a life-long scar as well on her forehead, and become just like the moon. As the lyrics of Hamesha Tumko Chaaha say, "Jo daag tumne mujhko diya us daag se mera chehra khila, rakhungi isko nishaani banakar maathe pey isko hamesha sajakar." The scar that Dev has given adds to Paro's beauty and it will always serve as a reminder of him. The scar is Dev and the film adds life to this scar as well. There is a stage when Dev starts vomiting blood as he is dying, and at the same time, Paro falls down from the stairs, and the scar from head oozes out blood, again, a symbolic reminder of Dev being the scar. It is remarkable that Mr. Bhansali uses these inexplicable connections between Dev and Paro. The scar is another of Mr. Bhansali's trademarks which continues to reappear as a motif in his other films, too.
After Devdas goes to London for his studies, Paro lights a diya (a lamp) in Dev's memory. For ten years, she lights a lamp, and not even for a moment, she let it extinguish, protecting it from everything. The lamp symbolized Dev. Paro takes the diya with her even after her wedding, because her love for Dev does not end with her marriage. She made sure to keep it burning till the end, and it only gets extinguished when Dev dies. There is no mention of the lamp in the Sarat Chandra's story, and, this is a touch by Mr. Bhansali. When Dev gets to know about the lamp, he tells Paro, "Diya tum jalati thi, par jalta toh main hi tha." In the flame of the lamp that you lit, it was I who burned. At some other point, Paro's mother Sumitra tells her, "Maine tujhe diye ke saath saath Devdas ke liye jalte hue dekha hai." With the lamp, I saw you burn for Devdas. The lamp, again, symbolizes the burning desire for the lover. The representation of desire using fire is another leitmotif in the work of Mr. Bhansali. In another comparison, Chandramukhi calls Devdas as her paras mani, the one whose touch turns iron into gold.
For me, the most stunning aspect of the film is its gorgeous climax that is exhilarating and moving at the same time. Devdas manages to reach Manikpur where Paro stays. He had promised Paro that he will visit her at least once before he dies. He is at her doorstep, lying beneath a tree, and is dying. Paro sees the commotion outside her house and gets to know that a man is lying outside. One of her family members tells her, "Pichle janam me yahan se koi mitti le gaya hoga." He must have come to return something that he owed in his last lifetime. Paro could sense something is wrong. There is always a sense of intuition in the characters of Mr. Bhansali. Paro eventually finds out that the man is none other than her Deva, and, then, she runs to meet him. However, her husband orders his servants to stop her, and close the gates. The cries of a young Paro calling her friend can be heard again. Arey, O Deva. All through the film, Paro was running after Dev. When a young Dev left for his studies, Paro ran after him. When Dev comes back from London, Paro runs to meet him. When Dev leaves his house, Paro runs after him to make him stop. When he comes to meet in her in his last days, she again runs after him.
Books In Movies:
Cases and Materials on Code of Civil Procedure, Pleadings and Practise With Model Forms,
and Co-operative Tribunal Journal
and Co-operative Tribunal Journal
A book by Charles DickensOther Reading:
1. On the Moon in the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali—Link
2. On Bajirao Mastani—Link
3. On Black—Link
4. On the weaving motif in the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali—Link
5. On Goliyon Ki Raasleea Ram-Leela—Link
Dialogue of the Day:
"Nadi sagar se milne kyun jaati hai, surajmukhi hamesha suraj ki taraf hi kyun dekhta hai."