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'Emotional connect between cinema and audience is missing'

Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar feels that contemporary cinema and its audience do not enjoy the emotional connect that was essential feature of the bygone era.

"Today's cinema and its audience don't have the kind of emotional give-and-take that the cinema of the Fifties had. The basic reason for that was because cinema was the only source of entertainment those days and, more often than not, its content was taken seriously by serious viewers," Dilip Kumar said.

The 89-year-old veteran actor, who was supposed to attend the book launch of "The Dialogue of Devdas", penned by Nasreen Munni Kabir on Wednesday, could not do so because of his health. Shahrukh Khan, who played Devdas in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 2002 remake, read out the letter written by the actor to the audience at the event. Among many remarkable characters he played on screen, Dilip Kumar is credited for immortalising the incarnation of Devdas in the 1955 black and white classic, based on the novel of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

"I am speaking about this to emphasise the responsibility the director shouldered in our times when he chose to make a film that had deep emotional appeal for audience. Dialogues of 'Devdas' are replete with a haunting sensitivity and spontaneity that came from the pen of Rajinder Singh Bedi, one of those rare writers whose syntax was so perfect that simple lines he wrote inspired actors to build up deep emotions in their rendering," the veteran actor said.
 
"I appreciated the precision and brevity of the lines he wrote for 'Devdas'. They were lines of profound meaning at times but they were so simply and sensitively worded that generations of viewers have found pleasure in repeating them lovingly," he said.

The actor, who won the best actor award for Devdas, said in the letter that he had not read the novel before Bimal Roy approached him. "When Bimalda approached me with the idea of playing Devdas, I had neither seen the earlier films nor read Sarat Babu's famous novel. He did not tell me that his intention was to discuss the film. After some pleasant conversation, he let our mutual friend Hiten Choudhury, who accompanied him, to bring up the subject. It was something I had not anticipated, so I asked for a few days to think it over," he said.

Reminiscing about how the melancholy of the novel moved the actor within him, the veteran said, "It was poignancy of the novel and the possibility of an intense rendering of the character of Devdas that spurred me to say Yes". The thespian, who was honoured with Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1994, said he could recall how he shaped the script of the flick.

"I think Bimalda knew from his own sources that I was a stickler for strong film scripts. So he made it comfortable for me to participate in writing and shaping the script that was being handled by him and his formidable team led by Rajinder Singh Bedi," he said.

Dilip Kumar's letter offers a rare glimpse into making of one of the most memorable and critically-acclaimed movies of the Indian cinema. "Dialogues for Devdas as well as for two women who love him were written and rewritten with care, keeping the situations and audience's empathy in mind. In the making of 'Devdas', his aim was to convey the sense of hopelessness that pervades the relationship between Devdas and the two women and others who are a part of his doomed life without leading ardent viewers to cynicism and despondence," he added.

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