Inheriting the praise coming in all phrases for his magnificent creative brilliance seen in BAJIRAO MASTANI, maverick filmmaker and constant dreamer Sanjay Leela Bhansali is in a mood to celebrate. Dressed in his trademark black kurta, Bhansali is dipped in nostalgia. I enter the room and find him humming legendary Mohammad Rafi's classic tum muhje yun bhula na paoge from the 1970's Shammi Kapoor starrer PAGLA KAHIN KA while fiddling with his phone. After exchanging greetings, Bhansali offers me a seat, orders his favorite black coffee, ensuring it should not be burnt and well prepared, the director opens his heart out on BAJIRAO MASTANI, his world of cinema and the divine influence.
Excerpts from the conversation.
||SANJAY LEELA BHANSALI
Many congratulations! The response is fabulous. Did you expect such an ovation?
I was living with a 12 year old dream – BAJIRAO MASTANI. I was trying and trying and trying but it was not happening. People started saying that it's a jinx but I never believed them and sometimes when your will and God's will come together things start happening. I wanted to give my tribute to MUGHAL–E–AZAM, it's a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to give all I have. Love story of a Maratha warrior – the language will be different, the scenario will be different. I got the opportunity from Eros and grabbed it with both hands to give the best I can. I have never made cinema keeping an eye on the market. As a filmmaker I try to give my film all the purity it needs. If it works out nicely people will love it, otherwise they won't. Here, people are loving it and I am glad.
Sometimes during an artistic expression, the creator goes through a gut feeling that something special is happening, did you undergo such a feeling while making BAJIRAO MASTANI?
''The magic in BAJIRAO MASTANI is driven by passion, supported by a divine force and a guardian angel''
Yes. Absolutely! BAJIRAO MASTANI has been an unbelievable experience. Some guarding angel, divine force has worked for me over here. I shot scenes when I was not feeling well and it turned out to be magnificent. Scenes from which I was not much satisfied during the shoot came out magnificently at the editing table.
Which scenes in particular from the film did you notice the magic?
When Ranveer Singh introduces himself as Bajirao Balhad, I was awestruck. What is happening? Never believed Ranveer will pull it off this way. No one did. The madness, the passion, the energy was exceptional. More than what I expected. The sword scene in silence for instance, when Mastani is kept in the brothel and her angst, her anguish is shown. At the end moment I dropped the paper which had the dialogues and I don't know why. The impact of the silence is stronger than words. It just happened. Deepika looked ravishing as Mastani, never imagined her to be so beautiful. Priyanka Chopra is so fabulous and natural. The mandolin in the Deewani Mastani song was an afterthought. It came suddenly, I don't know how, just before the rehearsal a thought flashed into my mind to give a mandolin to Deepika and look how it has come up. Such magic, divine influences kept on coming. I am just an average person to experience this, say this, but I believe in such mysteries and it had played its role in the film.
MUGHAL – E –AZAM also has played a significant role in BAJIRAO MASTANI.
Absolutely. MUGHAL–E–AZAM is my Geeta, it's everything in cinema to me. K Asif is my ultimate guru in filmmaking. I have grown up watching MUGHAL–E–AZAM and it has been my wish, prayer to give a tribute to that masterpiece by entering in his zone. The influence is everywhere in the film even in the music, the song mohe rang do laal is inspired from Mohe panghat pe nand lal chhed gayo re from MUGHAL–E–AZAM. The movie even after 55 years stands tall and is able to display those emotions which hold relevance in today's times. MUGHAL–E–AZAM cannot be made again. When people point out such influences I get overwhelmed. I am a filmmaker who is inspired by the greatness of K Asif, V Shantaram – NAVRANG, JHANAK JHANAK PAYAL BAJE, PINJRA, films of Raj Kapoor. I can never make a film like them. BAJIRAO MASTANI is just an attempt, an amalgamated tribute to the cinema I have learnt from such greats.
Why the use of two colours saffron and green in the film. you have followed a pattern of creating a single colour tone in your films, be it BLACK, DEVDAS, HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM or SAAWARIYA
That's the whole idea behind BAJIRAO MASTANI. The progressiveness of an Indian during the 17th century. BAJIRAO a Hindu Maratha warrior falling in love with a Muslim princess Mastani – no change of religion, Bajirao's son from Mastani grows as Shamsher Bahadur, Mastani feels proud in saying har har mahadev the combo of saffron and green which went on to become the Indian tricolor. The message of love having its own colour no matter what colour any religion chooses is conveyed by using Saffron and green, it's being done subconsciously.
What's the inspiration behind the strong characterizations in your films?
My cinema is not about bringing a social change. My characters are about individuals who go through adversities, pain, trauma, grief in their personal lives. I have seen my grandmother, mother, sister going through such phases in their life. They have remained strong and kept their faith in God intact. Same way in my films - Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn in HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM for example remain strong individuals. My films are about people and traumas in their personal life how they hold forth and emerge victorious or turn bitter.
''BAJIRAO MASTANI is a pure Indian cinema. Hope it crosses the cross over in the right way. ''
Pain, adversities, grief bring negativity and a human being is bound to fall prey, you have personally gone through pain in life earlier, how have you dealt with it?
Inspired by my Mom, grandmother, sister who have stayed strong during troubled times, the failure of SAAWARIYA didn't bog me down, I didn't cringe, cracked up. Fought with it, went on to make the opera PADMAVATI which turned good. Made GUZAARISH after that, which failed to make any commercial sense to anyone. Two back-to-back flops but I didn't give up and made GOLIYON KI RASLEELA RAM – LEELA.
You have moved on, there is a feeling that BAJIRAO MASTANI has the potential to influence world cinema and underline Indian cinema's grand fusion with art, culture and opulence in the way Chinese period sagas have done.
The responses indicate that it has the potential to influence the west in a better way. It may cross over in the right sense. I believe you can only impress/influence other cinema from your kind of cinema. You can appear in a suit to the west but that won't make much of an impact. You wear your dhoti, kurta and then meet them – you will find the acknowledgment, in no way we are lacking behind. In terms of techniques, making we are at par. We have grown; the distribution pattern has opened new avenues, more buying is taking place, more audiences are coming and interest for Bollywood is on rise, so such movies can make impact. Kamal Amrohi's PAKEEZA is equally important as Ray's CHARULATA, these are the films from which the west can take something. We react differently to situations, our style, music, thinking pattern is different so is our cinema. Sometime back I visited Paris and they acknowledged me by saying you are an Indian, I proudly said yes. They asked you know DEVDAS and I said yes. Now after all this years they remember DEVDAS – it's a movie that cut across SRK and Aishwarya from the Indian Diaspora to the other Diasporas. Movies like these are able to cross barriers when they proudly remain to their roots, stick to their ethos from where they are. Our cinema to the world should show what we are, and our richness to the world. China has done it by proudly being Chinese in those period dramas. Hope BAJIRAO MASTANI crosses the cross over in the right way by being truly Indian.
So, motivation for more period sagas in future is in the making
Ha Ha. No hard and fast rules... dekhtein hai (Lets see…)
Wishing Bhansali more luck for the international acclaim which is due, I depart with a good sense of nostalgia and hope. The déjà vu of that song tum muhje yun bhula na paoge haunts my mind, MUGHAL–E–AZAM and the richness of Indian cinema can never be forgotten, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has just offered a reminder through BAJIRAO MASTANI.
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