'Farah and I have a volatile relationship'
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for depicting grand, larger-than-life scenarios on the silver screen, but in real life he comes across as understated. He chats with us at his functional office, dressed in all-white. He tells us how his latest production Rowdy Rathore is different from his directorial ventures, his next project, Ram Leela, chats about his first TV show Saraswati Chandra and how Indian audiences find it difficult to accept tragic stories
Devdas has found a place in Time magazine’s top 10 films of the millennium.
Yes, it feels great. It has been 10 years since Devdas hit screens, and it is still being appreciated. I feel Devdas was a blessed project.
Any other film of yours that deserved a place in the top 10?
I would like to place myself in the top ten of the millennium (laughs). I would like to name Black — everyone who saw it, was touched.
Unfortunately, not many were touched by your last two projects, Sawaariya and Guzaarish.
Guzaarish got a lot of appreciation. Many people have seen it and loved it; and in fact, people are still discovering and appreciating it. Sawaariya was probably not liked by audiences because they didn’t relate to its atmosphere. However, a few days ago, Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) tweeted how much he liked the movie.
Do you take it badly when audiences do not connect to your vision?
It doesn’t make me feel bad, nor does it shake my conviction. For me, Saawariya remains one of the most beautiful films I have made. It just makes you feel that you have gone wrong somewhere.
Do you think Indian audiences are not ready to accept dark films?
Indian audiences do not seem to like films with tragic endings. But they appreciate artistic work.
Your latest production, Rowdy Rathore, is very different from the kind of films you are known for.
It is not a drastic shift; but a shift for the better. I have grown up watching films like Pratigya and Chor Machaye Shor. I enjoyed watching the original Rowdy Rathore (Vikramarkudu in Telugu); and I thought it would be appreciated by audiences. That is what people enjoy these days.
So why not direct Rowdy, instead of producing it?
I would not be very comfortable directing Rowdy Rathore.
You believe Prabhudeva is the right director for the film?
Yes. He is a wonderful dancer and he has made a huge hit, Wanted. I am very fond of his choreography. In fact, we also asked him to choreograph one of the songs in Rowdy Rathore, but he said no.
What made you go for the new pair of Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha?
Akshay is perfect for an action flick. This film offers him action, comedy and dance — what more can an actor ask for? Sonakshi, I feel, is a star. After actresses like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, here’s another namkeen actress who has a great connect with the masses. But I haven’t told her this; she might increase her rates (laughs).
Your next directorial venture, Ram Leela, also has an unusual pair — Kareena Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.
Ram Leela is a love story with 11 songs and lots of action. It is an aesthetically shot mainstream film. The Kareena-Ranveer pair is really exciting. I wanted spontaneous, raw performers and both Ranveer and Kareena are very similar in style. Though he is just two films old, Ranveer is a star and Kareena, of course, is already a star.
You are also getting into TV production with Saraswati Chandra. Will it have your trademark grandeur?
Grandeur is not intentional on my part; it is something that comes naturally to me. Saraswati Chandra is beautifully mounted — it is something that has never been seen on TV. It might become a landmark production.
You are also producing the Boman Irani-Farah Khan starrer Shirin Farhad Ki Nikal Padi, with which your sister Bela Sehgal is making her directorial debut.
It takes a lot of conviction to make a film like this — a love story, with one brilliant actor and another who has never acted before. Bela said she wanted to cast these two actors or she wouldn’t make the film. The film is just brilliant. Everyday, I go and see half it. I have learnt a lot from Bela, who was Vinod Chopra’s assistant and has edited all my films.
Your relationship with Farah has gone through several ups and downs.
We have a very volatile relationship. We fight and make upand then fight again and then get mkae up. When I first saw Shirin Farhad…, I held Farah and cried. It is too emotional for us.