Scene by Scene: Undying love in Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’

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When I was told it was my turn to pick a favourite scene and analyze it, I didn’t have to think too hard before my mind wandered to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s haunting climax in Devdas. The film itself celebrates a costume drama in all its glory, and this is perhaps one of the few scenes I have seen in my life that makes my heart beat faster each and every time I watch it.

The culmination of Bhansali’s Devdas is not only visually striking, but houses immense depth as it showcases the downfall of its two main characters, Devdas and Parvati. Though Devdas sacrifices his love for pride, it eventually leads to his self-destruction as he turns to alcohol for refuge. Paro too, in an act of revenge and self-defense, marries rich and becomes more wealthy than she can ever imagine. She discovers that wealth does not buy happiness and spends her life yearning for her lost love.

Throughout the film, we watch these two characters suffer because circumstance as well as pride keeps them apart. As Devdas slowly and painfully arrives at the end of his road, he lies in front of Paro’s mansion whispering her name, hoping she’ll come out and save him. When she finally realizes he is waiting for her, she runs with all her might towards the gate while her husband and family chase her, trying to stop her from leaving the house. After resisting him for so long, she finally turns a blind eye to those around her and runs to be with her lover.

Unfortunately, Paro is too late. With her sari flying behind her, feet red with ink, hair blowing in the wind and tears running down her face, she screams Devdas’s name and reaches out in desperation. Breathing his very last, he stares at her only to witness the gates of her mansion tragically shutting, leaving Paro weeping on the floor and Devdas dead only feet away.

I’ve always felt that Devdas has the perfect culmination because throughout the film the story slowly builds and reaches this ultimate crescendo that leaves you gasping for air. Each and every part of it is a masterpiece — the acting, sets, brilliant background score — it all forces your adrenaline to work in overdrive until you are left stunned and with tears in your eyes as the gates close on Paro.

Also, several instances of symbolism and recurring motifs occur which make the scene extremely layered. As Paro runs through her haveli she knocks down several pieces of furniture which signifies her world coming crashing down and foreshadows Devdas’s demise. The bed of flowers that Devdas waits on in anticipation mirrors the purity of his love for Paro even though its innocence has been marred by age. The most obvious symbolism occurs as the light of Paro’s diya is blown away, representing Paro and Devdas’s love.

The scene itself represents all that Devdas stands for–undying love in its most pure form. The image of Paro’s sari flying as she wails “Deva!” will forever haunt me.

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