Sanjay Leela Bhansali muses about his cinematic journey

In an exclusive interview, the director talks about his films, being moody and controversies surrounding his life

Sanjay Leela Bhansali muses about his cinematic journey

Sanjay Leela Bhasali’s films are always a visual feast but behind that there is a perfectionist with many moods and a hard taskmaster. The ace filmmaker talks about his upcoming ‘Ram-Leela’, his muse — Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai and clarifies about the controversies surrounding his life.

Talking about the inspiration of ‘Ram Leela’, he shares, “The idea of the story came after ‘Khamoshi’. I wanted to make ‘Romeo Juliet’, I realised ‘Khamoshi’ did not do well at the box office but had received rave reviews. But making a film with such a big infrastructure, it may not receive a proper finishing. As it is I had made a subtle, subdued film like ‘Black’, ‘Saawariya’ based on a trilogy. Also I had already shot the film in Gujarat and did not want to shoot again in Gujarat.” Elaborating further on his cinematic journey, he adds, “At this point of time ‘Guzaarish’, the story popped into my mind. People also told me that now you are planning for a movie which is based on mercy killing and also interested in casting Hrithik Roshan, who will not be seen dancing. They all did not like my idea of making a film like ‘Guzaarish’. But I was very sure about the film. I liked the very idea about a man being on the death bed and celebrating his death.”
But talking about the switchover from a serious films like ‘Black’ and ‘Guzaarish’ to fun films, he reveals, “Anyways, after all the serious films, I decided to make a film full of fun and frolic. A colorful entertaining movie. Thus ‘Ram-Leela’ was conceptualized. It took me much time to compose and record the songs of the film. We recorded one song in a month. Almost two years went in recording the songs, which was tried on error and trial basis.”
Revealing how Deepika Padukone’s character has been inspired by his mother, he shares, “However, I had named Nandini in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ being the name of my aunty. I wanted to give a tribute to my mom and thus Leela is the name of Deepika. I called up Deepika and told her you will be doing a special role of my mom. So I had to portray her character beautifully yet pristine. It feels great because my wish and dream of giving a tribute to my mom has been fulfilled.”
Sharing how it took double the efforts of his previous two films ‘Guzaarish’ and ‘Saawariya’, for ‘Ram Leela’ to take shape. And how he likes to up the ante, he shares, “Preparations of ‘Ram- Leela’ took away my life. I have to work hard for my next films always. If I don’t work hard, the film will not do well at the box office. You have to keep up your energy levels and also have to clean up all that is not required. I did not compromise with anything. I did not just make a proposal or a project, which is not worthwhile. We also worked very hard on the scripting level itself. Six months went in pre-production job. I almost put in double efforts of my previous two films ‘Guzaarish’ and Saawariya.” And adds, “Now when I do the next, I am sure I will put in more efforts. It is sheer hard work especially because everyone right from the actors, costume designer, director of photography were freshers. They came up with their ideas while in cooperation of my idea, we tried to bring freshness in the film. Why will people like to watch my film if I make it in the same manner.”
Confessing that he is a hard taskmaster, he shares, “Yes, I am a hard task master merely because I feel the one I am working with has ample amount of potential. My choreographers Sameer/Arsh and Vishnudeva, I tried to push boundaries. Samir/Arsh has a wide know folk dance knowledge so I tried to mix the right balance of filmy as well as the folk side.”
With the music of the movie having received rave reviews, he shares, “The songs like ‘Nagada’ and others have received rave reviews. I am of course happy about it. Also Priyanka Chopra’s song I feel is sensuous, it’s so pure and pristine and I see no reasons of any controversies. These numbers are definitely different from the regular Hindi Bollywood numbers. Getting rave reviews for the promotional songs feels great also because we have not made any compromises and I feel every creative person is blessed with this opportunity. Everything has to fall in place if God wishes. It indeed feels great.”
Talking about the intimate scenes, he shares how he has directed it with more openness and says, “This time I have directed it with more open mindedness. The romantic scenes have been canned organically and possess the sensuality. Canning these romantic scenes lyrically by neither being very aggressive nor sending any wrong messages will surely allure the audiences. These scenes are better than the pelvic thrust that we usually watch in our Hindi films.”
Talking about the sizzling chemistry between his lead pair, he shares, “Also the reel love translated by Ranveer Singh and Deepika on screen is magically great. I could see the real romance of Deepika and Ranveer on the screen.” When asked whether he has done justice to the real love existing between the lead pair and translated it faithfully onscreen, he shares, “I know not. I feel naturally some actors translate as if they are really in love. I have shown the kiss in a very natural manner like it has happened. So there’s nothing nonsensical in it. People are going to enjoy the film and the openness in ‘Ram-Leela’. I had to restrict a little as it signifies my mother’s name. But yes, I have turned colourful with this film.”
On Kareena Kapoor who was supposed to be the leading lady in the film, he shares, “Yes Kareena was to do this film. We had prepared the costume etc and we were happy about it. Both of us tried to make this work, but it could not happen. But we parted with a good way and decided that we will work some other time.” And added, “Then we spoke to Deepika. When I met her for the first time without make up, she looked so beautiful. I feel after Vijayanthimala she is the most beautiful heroine. She agreed to work in a short notice. Within just 15 days she had to get to the set. I appreciate her confidence level and defiantly she has done exuberantly well.”
Talking about taking a bet with an upcoming actor, “Ranveer possesses very high energy levels. It is very difficult to keep it in control. He would come on the sets all prepared but the moment we started shoot I would tell him no we are not using this line. You will have to use this line now. I being a spontaneous director make changes on the spot. Finally he got accustomed to me and has done a wonderful performance. He has the rawness of Mithun Chakraborthy, Ajay Devgan and Nana Patekar. He has given his best.”
Deepika according to Sanjay has superseded his expectations totally as he shares, “Deepika would just laugh out at the drafts sent to her. I would send one draft at 7 PM and then within a gap of 45 min another draft would be sent to her. While I would send another draft at 8pm she would just smile and say that she would come on the sets and learn her lines. She has given ten times better performances than I expected from her. She restores all her energies while on the sets as she talks very less. And I sometime want people to keep chatting.”
Talking about his previous muse — Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan, he shares, “Yes, I do miss Madhuri, Aishwarya and Salman. I remember while shooting with Aish I would be sitting at a distance and she would realize the changes I was discussing with my assistant. She is a real brilliant actor. Madhuri and Aishwarya are my muse. I would keep gazing at them when they would dress up and walk down to the sets, my eyes would refuse to get off them. Salman was good. But I think Ranveer, Deepika and the new lot have immense talent.”
Sharing how ‘Ram-Leela’ could not go to Cannes film festival, he says, “‘Ram- Leela’ cannot go to the Cannes as timing for selection is over. We will be showcasing it in Marakeshwar film festival on the opening night of this 29th. I am sure the film will allure the international audiences too. Like any Chinese film represents China similarly ‘Ram-Leela’ will represent the true Hindi Bollywood entertaining film.”
On being moody he says, “Yes, people say I shout on the sets but I have never done so. Who is not moody? Everyone has fluctuating moods. If my assistant has forgotten to get the requirements, I will never compromise on it. It is his duty to get every requirement in place. Why will I suffer for him? I will surely ask him to get everything in place and for this if I have to shout at him then I am surely moody. I am very particular about everything. If a glass has to be kept in a particular manner, it has to be that way as it coincides with the requirement.”
Talking about controversies, he shares, “Controversies do matter a lot not only to me but everyone on this Earth. I was unnecessarily hurt again and again for ‘Khamoshi’ and ‘Guzaarish’. So much so, that I stopped coming out of the house, I stopped reading newspapers and stopped listening to radio. We are here to work why should people talk unnecessarily about us. Hearing negative stuff does hurt me. And those who say they are okay with it, they are just pretending.”

Lipika Varma

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