Aishwarya Rai stars as Parvati in _Devdas_ (2002). Courtesy of Eros International

Find it at 5th Avenue: Devdas

This week’s film screening will showcase a classic Bollywood musical

Find It At 5th Ave. is a recurring column that reviews, previews and explores running and upcoming films at PSU’s independent movie theater, 5th Avenue Cinema.


This weekend, PSU’s 5th Avenue Cinema will open its doors to screen Devdas, a Hindi film from filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, based on the 1917 novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The 2002 film is a Bollywood love story following a wealthy law graduate named Devdas Mukherjee (Shah Rukh Khan) as he returns home from London to marry his childhood friend, Paro (Aishwarya Rai). 


But when Devdas’ own family rejects their marriage, he spirals into emotional decay and turns to vices. Struggling through alcoholism, he meets and seeks refuge with a kind courtesan named Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit). 


Devdas was chosen for screening this week by 5th Avenue Cinema’s Nayeli Naranjo-Robles, a history student at PSU. 5th Avenue Cinema is known and loved for featuring foreign films, and Devdas is no exception.


“Japanese and Korean film is pretty big,” Naranjo-Robles said. “Not many other Asian countries have a large film culture, but Bollywood is fucking huge!” 


Bollywood began in India back in the 1930s, as the silent film era came to an end. 


“They’re usually very long—this one’s three hours long—and they’re usually musicals, with dancing, extravagant costumes and lots of drama,” Naranjo-Robles said. 


Bollywood is a blend of two words: Bombay and Hollywood. Bombay, known today as Mumbai, is India’s biggest city. Since its conception in the ‘30s, Bollywood has remained prominent in Indian films—and even up until now.


Naranjo-Robles compared the drama within Bollywood to that of soap operas or telenovelas. 


“It’s very over-the-top and extravagant,” Naranjo-Robles said. “That’s probably why it’s not very big here.” 


Telenovelas are known for their exaggerated stories, and are another niche culture that isn’t very popular in the U.S.  Narenjo-Robles also acknowledged that there are many people who aren’t much into musicals. 


“A lot of people are like ‘it’s not realistic,’” Narenjo-Robles said. “It’s not my fault that white people don’t like to sing and dance, like, just have a bit of fun! Put that in [the article]!”


Naranjo-Robles may be the newest member of 5th Avenue Cinema, but she stays in touch with film culture. She pointed out that, even though PSU has a large Desi community on campus, 5th Avenue Cinema hasn’t shown too many Bollywood films. Although she claimed she isn’t too knowledgeable about Bollywood film, she shared that Devdas is a great place to begin your dive into the culture. 


After choosing to screen Devdas, Naranjo-Robles even received an email from a student who thanked her, expressing how excited they are to see it and experience it with the students of PSU. It’s not rare that viewers will stop by after a movie to thank the staff for their choice. Naranjo-Robles said this is the first time she’s been thanked before the film has been shown.


“If you say you’re into film, you can’t just be watching noir; you can’t just be watching French New Wave,” Naranjo-Robles said. “Come on, you have to try new things and see what other people are doing with this medium of film and how they’re utilizing it to create these kinds of stories and visuals, so that you can compare it with what you’re used to and what you like.” 


Devdas is three hours long, so 5th Avenue Cinema will only have three showings—one each day of the weekend, instead of their usual five. Watch Devdas this Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m. or Sunday at 3 p.m.