A year after Moulin Rouge! had its world premiere at Cannes, another visually intoxicating musical opened at the festival, introducing sang-and-danced Bollywood dramas to the international culturati. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1901 novel inspired at least a half-dozen film versions before this one — in its time, the priciest movie in Indian history (at about $10.6 million). The plot, based on a 1917 novel, is good-ol’ family-values propaganda, drenched in luscious masochism: rich-boy Devdas (all-world charismatist Shahrukh Khan) leaves home, abandons his girlfriend (former Miss World Aishwarya Rai) and suffers magnificently while dallying with a prostitute (Madhuri Dixit, a hot number who had danced flamenco on men’s libidos for a decade or so before appearing in this worldly-wise role). The piece is played with such commitment that the tritest plot twists seem worth believing — and dancing to, in nine nifty production numbers. But the fervid emotion is what makes the thing sing. Beyond that, Devdas is a visual ravishment, with sumptuous sets, fabulous frocks and beautiful people to fill them; it has a grandeur the old Hollywood moguls would have loved.
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