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Post-Devdas works in Hindi literature analysis always use the term Devdas syndrome. Like "X work is suffering from Devdas syndrome" or "Y work tackled it quite well".

But what is this Devdas syndrome exactly? Is there an exact definition of it?

An example of use:

"Bollywood's Hegemony," Hindu.com:

To think that one of Benegal’s best and most self-reflexive films was a subversive take on the Devdas syndrome in “Suraj Ka Satwa Ghoda”.

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    I would caution potential answerers that this question is harder than it might seem to answer well. I'd personally love to see an answer that explains not just what the term is, but how it even came about. Looking into it, it seems as though there's a deeper question of "why does this syndrome have a name in the first place?" that's going to require some significant cross-cultural understanding to properly address.
    – user80
    Feb 1 '17 at 8:56
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    @Emrakul to draw a parallel, would you say this is like asking what is the Oedipus complex and why is it called so? (And I couldn't answer that it is X, and it's because the tale of Oedipus was well known to the educated elite when the term was coined)
    – muru
    Feb 1 '17 at 10:30
  • It sounds like "Devdas Syndrome" could be referring to a tendency for later works to excessively reuse the plot and/or theme from Devdas. This could be similar to describing a (hypothetical) phenomenon of science fiction writers repeatedly writing stories about farmboys who travel around space with their sisters and blow up big space stations as "Star Wars syndrome". Feb 1 '17 at 12:53
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    @ABcDexter what O.o Mar 16 '17 at 10:16
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    kaun kambakht jeeta hai peene ke liye, hum to peete hain ke alcohols ki relative acidity jaan sakein...
    – ABcDexter
    Mar 19 '17 at 0:14
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As far as I can tell, this seems not to be quite a formal, well-defined term. Rather, it's the use of an iconic cultural touchstone as shorthand for issues and tropes that come up often - and, just as the original creation can be interpreted in different ways, can be admired or criticized, people's use of the phrase "Devdas syndrome" seems to depend on their own interpretation of the story.

Devdas is a tragedy -- rich Devdas and middle-class Parvati are in love, but the match is prevented by family, class, and culture. Devdas goes into a self-destructive spiral of melancholy and alcohol. "The Devdas Phenomenon", by Corey K. Creekmur, summarizes:

Three key events carry the story to its hopeless conclusion:

  • Devdas writes Paro an insincere letter denying his love for her, which he attempts but fails to prevent from being delivered;
  • prior to her wedding, Devdas, breaking a childhood promise never to hit Paro again, scars Paro’s beautiful face (originally with a fishing rod), marking her with a symbol of his enduring love (and a punishment for her vanity);
  • finally, as he sinks into greater oblivion despite Chandramukhi’s attempts to care for him after she abandons her profession, Devdas takes a last, aimless train ride across India.

Finally, as he had promised (“If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll come to you”), Devdas drags himself to the entrance of Parvati’s home – to which she has been restricted — where he dies just before she is alerted to the presence of a stranger’s body just beyond the massive gates that shut her inside as she runs to him. (While these details may spoil the story for a first-time viewer, it’s clear that most Indian viewers come to any telling of the tale with the plot well-known and its now-familiar highlights eagerly anticipated with each retelling.)

What I gather from the various discussions I've read is that Devdas is a story that romanticizes, perhaps not uncritically, its protagonist wallowing in sorrow and tragedy. So, Devdas Syndrome is roughly this: The romantic portrayal, of wallowing in sorrow, usually over an ended romance.

This is how I'm seeing the phrase used and the story discussed, primarily casually, across the internet. For example, this essay describes Devdas Syndrome as the desire to romanticize failure:

As a nation, we have always loved losers. And you cannot get a bigger loser than Devdas. He symbolizes everything that is wrong with us. (...)

Devdas refuses to rise above his sick and sodden self-image. In fact, he wallows in it and his death is a supreme act of completely meaningless sacrifice. An escape, as it were, from the sheer trauma of coping with life.

By enshrining the story of this eternal loser and packaging it so lovingly and misleadingly as the story of the eternal lover, Bhansali ends up romanticizing Devdas.

Or "The Devdas Syndrome: Turning Heartbreak into Hatred", which uses the phrase to describe people who cannot get over a failed romance, who are bitter and entitled and blame all their problems on the girl who told them no.

And of course, not every interpretation sees romanticizing tragedy as something to be avoid it. Some find it powerful and moving:

He wanted love and intensely loved, and yet could not express both.

His unfulfilled love did not stop him from loving uncondition- ally... thus making his love immortal even though it destroyed him later in his life. Ultimately, Devdas is a story that projects emotion as its hero.


This understanding of Devdas Syndrome seems borne out by this description of the author of the original 1917 novella feeling it has misled people

At one time Sarat told his pals that if he only he had visualised the negative impact his book was going to have on the youth he would not have permitted his book to be filmed at all!

(I do not know whether this anecdote is true, false, or a fictional portrayal, but in any event it's indicative of public opinion of the creation.)

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Devdas was the character from Sharatcandra. He was an alcoholic in deep love, a weak man who was resigned to his fate, a masochist. The syndrome is representative of such characters.

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    Do you have a source for this?
    – Mithical
    Feb 8 '17 at 13:04

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