Dev

Dev is the protagonist in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. Devdas is a cult movie which has been adapted in many languages, originally a novel by SaratChandra Chattopadhyay.

Dev is a man deep rooted in patriarchy but is unaware of it. Dev and Paro have a long time long distance relationship.  Both of them are in love with each other. Their age warrants raging hormones and none of them is in denial. At Dev’s request,  Paro sends him her “pictures” which she gets developed at a photo studio first. Dev is Ok with it till he believes that Paro is only his. Their rendezvous continues even when Dev comes back to India.

 

But the problem arises when Dev hears loose talk about Paro. It comes from rumors spread by a spurned lover. But much like village folk, totally leaving behind his foreign education and thinking, he believes everything he hears. When Paro confronts him, he breaks up with her. He has no idea what he is doing. Giving up on his childhood love on hearsay rumors. Paro is heartbroken and decides to marry the guy her father chooses for her. It’s only when Dev sees Paro on her wedding day that it finally hits him. And there after, he goes down that long road of alchohol, drugs and self destruction.

Dev is a character I find hard to empathize with. He comes across as a very selfish person who only cares about what he wants. Even Chanda, who he meets later and who takes care of him, is left alone because he finds out about her background and the reason why she forays into prostitution. 
I feel like Dev is caught between his patriarchal thoughts and western sensibilities. He cannot handle a Paro who is independent,  owns her sexuality and is not afraid to ask for respect. Dev’s deep rooted patriarchy doesn’t allow him to accept what his heart wants. He is a narcissistic person who chooses the path of self destruction over anything worthwhile that he could have done with his life. This character is iconic for the way it has been portrayed by both the Abhay Deol (the actor who plays Dev) and Anurag Kashyap (the director of the movie).

Butler, Rhett

As much as I racked my brains for a character starting with ‘B’, I couldn’t get one. 

Everyone who knows me knows my love for ‘Gone with the Wind‘. Scarlett O’Hara is the more famous character of the book and movie. Rhett Butler is a very close second for me. And one that I have loved so much growing up. So there was no chance I was letting this go.

If you have read the book, you’d know it’s a big book, over 1000 pages and lots of characters. So there is no way you can form an opinion about each one of them during the first go. Infact during my first reading of the book, Rhett Butler’s name was mentioned in the book  many times before he actually made an appearance. And I thought he was one of the many side characters until the story panned out and he became one of the most important. And that’s why precisely, it’s not strange that my feelings for him changed as I re-read the book many times over.

The first time that Rhett is ever mentioned in the book is at a party and it is whispered around that he is a man of “reputation” and is not received in “decent circles”. That made me think of him as a negative character. And then just a few hours later, Scarlett catches him napping behind a couch where she had been trying to coax Ashley Wilkes into marrying her. When Scarlett confronts Rhett that it was not a respectable thing to do. Rhett,very tongue-in-cheek reminds her that what she was doing wasn’t very respectable either. I still thought of Rhett as an abominable character.

GONE WITH THE WIND, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh in a still from the movie

Rhett keeps going in and out of Scarlett’s life as she marries once and then twice and eventually loses both her husbands. He finds her will and stubbornness a very attractive quality and even provokes her many times. Scarlett hates him to the core. But Rhett is a man of “reputation” and openly confesses to have earned his wealth and many a affairs by unfair means. Rhett’s hard exterior is made a little vulnerable only when he sees Scarlett so hopelessly in love with Ashley and knows that it may never be returned with as much fervor. And that’s where he says one of his many iconic dialogues, “You need to be kissed, and by someone who knows how“. 

One of my most favorite scenes from the book is when Scarlett needs money and goes visiting Rhett in the jail. She doesn’t care a damn that he is going to be hanged soon. She just goes there to lure him, to make him believe that she has always liked him so that he loans her some money that she needs. Rhett can read Scarlett from a mile away. She is in all her finery, that famous green satin dress. He knew she didn’t love him. He knew he didn’t have access to his own money. Yet he let her go on and on. And when he wouldn’t budge, Scarlett being Scarlett offered to be his mistress to repay him. That’s when Rhett tells Scarlett the truth. Scarlett couldn’t be any more angrier or humiliated. And Rhett?! Well, that’s the thing he has always loved about Scarlett. Her naivety about relationships but her utter will to live and flourish at any cost. He finds her charming beyond his control.

Finally, there’s the time when Rhett manages to marry Scarlett hoping to get her to love him as he has with all his might. But Scarlett is a grown woman still trapped in that little girl’s body who cannot get over her first love Ashley, even though she knows that he is married. And even when Ashley pointedly tells her that he would never ever betray his wife. There finally comes a point when one gets to see Rhett’s vulnerability and sadness at not being able to get Scarlett’s attention and love. Personally, it broke my heart to see the ever reckless and hard hearted Rhett dissolve into sadness and gloom. 

The depth of feeling Rhett has for Scarlett can easily be gauged from this one dialogue:
You’re so brutal to those who love you, Scarlett. You take their love and hold it over their heads like a whip.

Rhett’s character is so real that you or I may actually know someone like him. He has the hardest exterior. He takes all the slights and insults hurled at him with utmost grace. And wit, if needed. And yet, he has the kindest heart for a genuine person. He has a way with kids as he understands them well. And beneath all of that is a heart that longs for love. A love that is full, complete, passionate and only his. A love that is freeing and all encompassing.

His oft repeated dialogue to Scarlett is “Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn“. And that I think is a lie. 

Anne Frank

As a little girl, I was petrified after reading “The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank“. My hitherto cushioned and protected life could not take in and believe the horrors that war brought upon the lives of people. For a long time after that, I went to bed scared of the what ifs. What if we had to live a life like Anne? What if WWIII started and we died without ever knowing what it means to grow up, go to college , have a job and kids?

But at first, I was also very confused about some chapters from Anne’s life where she talked about the crush she had on the boy whose family hid with them in the attic. I could not believe how she could be concerned about a boy’s feelings for her when their lives were at stake. I think I judged her a little bit. 

And then, as I grew up, curious to read more about WWII, I read more books about Anne’s life in the concentration camps, Last Stop Auschwitz and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. And I always went back to Anne. Like she was the person I knew who had gone to that hellish place. And since I grew up a little too, I began to understand her better. 

Like she was a teenager who could not fathom the enormity of the situation at first. May be she thought there would be a day when they would be able to walk out of that house as a free person. May be she was so afraid that at one point she just stopped being afraid. She wanted to live her life completely. She wanted to grow up to be a woman, have a boyfriend, and experience her first kiss. She wanted to journal her life in the attic so that one day when all of this was over, she would publish that book and become famous.

The last straw of my journey came when I visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. At that point, I was happily married with a 9 month old Lil S in my arms. For those of you who haven’t been there, it’s the same house where Anne and her family hid for close to 2 years. As we climbed the narrow stairs to the upper level and moved across hallways and went to Anne’s room, which she also shared with her sister, all those scenes from her diary came floating right across my eyes. My first instinct was to clutch Lil S a bit more closer. There was absolute silence as we moved across the house. We came out and sat to watch a short film about Anne’s journey from this house to the concentration camp to never return. 

And as I grew up from a teenager to the mother of a beautiful girl myself, I fully understood the gravity of those feelings that Anne had. That she never could fulfill. I choked and shed a tear. If you could hear a heart break, you would have heard mine that day, breaking into a million pieces.

Anne’s character might not be a very difficult one to process, but for sure is a powerful one. The strong voice of a little girl rising above the cacophony of WWII. Telling us to be gracious, to have gratitude for things we have, for the life we have, and the one she could not have.