Shimla warms to Bhansali and 'Black'

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
8/17/2004 12:00:00 AM
"Black" has got critical and commercial success and evoked a strong response from viewers, but filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt  begs to differ when it comes to an advertisement praising the film.

Responding to a much talked-about advertisement in Mumbai's Mid-Day paper, where a fan of "Black" has rubbished all other recent films, including the Bhatt-produced "Murder", the filmmaker says: "It is a desperate attempt by a man to tell himself and the world that he's the best."

"Black" director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is baffled.

"Why is Bhatt talking like this about me? How am I responsible for what a fan of 'Black' has said about other films? Is Bhatt implying that I put the ad in the paper? I wish we had that kind of money to promote the film.

"I never announced myself to the world when I was a nobody during my first film 'Khamoshi'. Why would I do it now?"

The latest in the film's long line of quick, impressive and utterly singular achievements is a large advertisement placed in Mid-Day.

The ad announces, "If you've watched and liked 'Munnabhai M.B.B.S.', 'Main Hoon Na', 'Murder', 'Ab Tak Chhappan', 'Girlfriend', 'Dhoom', 'Tere Naam', 'Kisna', 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi', 'Hulchal', 'Julie' and 'Rog', then please go and watch 'Black', you'll get to know the difference between a mediocre and a brilliant film."

The ad, issued by a company called Sunny Advertising, comes with a "warning" - "This is not a paid advertisement".

Bhansali laughs with joy and embarrassment.

"It's truly gratifying to have people rally around the film in such large numbers. Every section of the audience has become possessive of 'Black', which is very reassuring for a filmmaker like me.

"I took a big risk and it has paid off. At the same time I don't want my colleagues who are gifted in their own right and who are doing their own thing to feel that my achievement undermines theirs," he says.

"The ad in Mid-Day is very touching. And I'm thankful to the people behind it who have gone through so much trouble and expense to let the world know how much they love my film. But the other films mentioned in the ad are by colleagues whom I respect.

"I don't want fans of 'Black' to create the impression that the achievements by others are in any way less valuable. Not at all! There's room in our cinema for every kind of film. I'm as happy doing my own thing as other filmmakers are doing theirs," Bhansali adds.

Between films, Bhansali feels a sense of emptiness after the release of "Black".

"The film is out and everyone has embraced it. But now I'm restless. I feel like a mother who has delivered a baby. The world is fussing over it while the mother has nothing to do. I want to move on, make another film," he says.

"There're so many other ideas that I want to put on screen. Now that 'Black' has worked so wonderfully I want to push even more in a direction that's entirely my own," says the director.

Pausing for breath, Bhansali adds: "What's been specially wonderful is the support and love I've received from all my colleagues in the film industry.

"They've all come forward in one voice to show their appreciation for what I've done. My friend Karan Johar hasn't seen 'Black'. He's been unwell. I'm dying to show it to him."