4 Jan 2011

Rule of Law in Bollywood Translations of ‘Devdas’ and ‘Parineeta’

Just like God can be found whereever one looks for Him, similarly law can be found anywhere you look. So seems to be presupposition on which this paper titled Rule of Law in Bollywood Translations of ‘Devdas’ and ‘Parineeta’ has been written by Michael H. Hoffheimer. While the abstract of the article does not fully describe its contents except to give a very broad overview when its states that "article discusses transformation of "Devdas" and "Parineeta" narratives in multiple commercial Hindi film adaptations, focusing on changing role of law and lawyers over time", a look at the paper would make one realize that it is indeed an ernest attempt to learn from the mind of the bollywood film-makers in as much as they project the prevailing social thought coupled with the literary opinions expressed by the contemporary intellectuals.  

As the author himself puts it, the article which was published in the Florida Entertainment Law Review, "tracks the shifting contours of the conflict between eros and convention in Saratchandra's literary narratives, in Bimal Roy's 1950s film recreations and in the recent Bollywood hits. It examines the continuity of the central conflict between romance and its social regulation, explores diverse artistic representations of this conflict and attempts to explain sources for alterations that affect the professional legal status and moral authority of the male lovers. "

Written with extensive references to the text and comment of various prominent Indian authors, the article sets itself to terms with the historic background to describe the two movies in a running commentary of sorts. And then the conclusion is all the more interesting. It notes;
One of the visible tokens of this transformation is Devdas's conversion in 2002 from rusticated student to lawyer and Shekhar's conversion in 2005 from a lawyer to a musician. Evoking strong negative associations of characters identified as legal professionals, recent Bollywood films--far more than Saratchandra's novels or Bimal Roy's 1950s film translations--pit law directly against eros, completing the personification of lawyers as bad lovers.
Yet the negative the judgment of law in the recent Bollywood translations of DEVDAS and PARINEETA remains more nuanced than the vision of law in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. To be sure, Bollywood deploys stereotypes of lawyers as grasping, manipulative and deceptive. It goes still further in identifying lawyers with a lack of erotic capacity. But such representations subsist in a rich film tradition that provides competing narratives in which law and lawyers can also embody erotic power and serve to restore family harmony and social order. 
In all, an interesting paper. 

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