It was in August 1996 when I had gone for an official tour to Dehradun. I had completed my work and had time to kill as the train to Delhi was at 10.00 p.m. in the night. Those were the days when such long gaps before departure from a city were fruitfully utilized by stepping inside a cinema hall to kill time and catch on to a movie which one might or may not see otherwise. I saw KHAMOSHI being played in the cinema hall. I had a great fascination for earlier KHAMOSHI made by Gulzar and thought that this KHAMOSHI could also delve into an area which Hindi cinema otherwise does not do!
Though I was circumspect about the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali – who, as I was hearing the name for the first time, but with Salman, Manisha Koirala, Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas along with Helen being in the starcast, as a movie buff it did trigger an inclination to go through this KHAMOSHI.
It was a musical delight and cinematic jubilance that swept me off my feet. Sanjay Leela Bhansali for me had arrived as the music of KHAMOSHI in itself had the magnet to entice the audience to cinema halls. Remember those were the days when Youtube was still not a SEO optimised most searched word, music channels were still setting their nodes and other musical platforms were yet to be conceived. This was the era when aficionados used to step into cinema halls repeatedly but for nothing else, then the musical exposition that had been mounted through the film.
This new KHAMOSHI had lived up to its name as it delved into an arena of physically challenged couples, and their handicaps making them hesitant to explore lives outside the conventional. The scene where the piano was sold set to- Baaje re baja hamara nache jahan ye saara, indeed set the arrival of Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a musical director who would treat audiences if nothing else serendipitous musical ouvres through his creative expositions. Audiences that day did walk out from the cinema hall as they were being treated for the first time in their recent memories with such large detailing, but this detailing eventually became the leitmotif of Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
In the initial stages of filmmaking Bhansali did have a soft corner for the physically challenged characters which he went out to dabble with mainstream actors- who otherwise had not dabbled into this genre as it perceivably militate against the macho image that they had in the public eye- Hrithik Roshan in GUZARISH, BIG B and Rani Mukherjee in BLACK or for that matter Salman Khan in KHAMOSHI with Manisha Koirala.
He really came into his own with HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM with an ensemble star cast and for the first time perhaps through HDDCS brought out a softer side of Ajay Devgn, which the audience had not seen. HDDCS also affirmed the tone of detailing and expanse of landscape as the defining motif for Bhansali. He became the master of panoramic vision or mounting the subject on a large canvas. Music of HDDCS became a watershed in the oeuvre of Hindi film music for Hindi films.
As a matter of fact Sanjay Leela Bhansali has become eponymous as a director whose music would be talk of the town and this characteristic trait continues to this day i.e. starting from KHAMOSHI to PADMAVAT. His passion to experiment with different nodes and nuances of sound perhaps coaxed him to wield the baton which he dabbled with for the first time in GUZAARISH and has taken it to new heights with PADMAVAT. His music has the earthiness of the folk and the zing of the western classical music and he is perhaps one of those rare music directors who gives a new dimension to his music exposition in his films as he visualizes them as a director and then sets the tone for them as a music director.
Whatever be the subject that he choses to make a film on, the folk of that area get a new lease of life. Bhansali dabbled with this template from HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM and took it to new heights with PADMAVAT.
With DEVDAS he turned to history as his template and at the cost of courting controversy has not shied to dabble in history albeit cinematically with BAJIRAO MASTANI, PADMAVAT and now GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI.
But for a Salman Khan and a Ranveer Singh (he is his current favourite), he has rarely repeated his heroes. In the case of female leads, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Deepika Padukone have been lucky enough to have been featured twice and thrice over so far.
He has given a dud in the form of SAWARIYA as well, but in the bargain industry got a gem of an actor in the form of Ranbir Kapoor. Maybe now that he has completed a silver jubilee in the world of Hindi cinema it is time for him to work with Ranbir Kapoor and create another cinematic milestone for all times to come.