I don't make money, I make movies : Bhansali

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I don't make money, I make movies : Bhansali



Source: TOI 

Date: November 28, 2010 


On the film website passionforcinema.com, under the topic, 'hot discussion for the month,' aficionados and critics vigorously joust over Sanjay Leela Bhansali's latest movie, Guzaarish. There are those who vilify him for being perpetually 'inspired'--- comparison with The Sea Inside is inevitable. One wit writes: 'Forget euthanasia, the only way to deal with this film is through amnesia and anaesthesia'. While another makes a cruel but not in-apt reference to the milieu of his films as Bhansalipur. Initial trade figures underwhelm. "If only he made films on a smaller budget, his movies would be profitable," is a refrain from the pundits even as UTV, producers of Guzaarish, maintain a discreet silence. 


Away from the din, the dissing and the dissection, in a large, white spartan room, remarkably free of vanity-no posters of films, no photographs, no trophies-Sanjay Bhansali snuffs out a barely-smoked cigarette. One of the most beautiful set-pieces in Guzaarish shows Hrithik's character, a quadriplegic, being taken out of his home after 14 years. He braves the indignity of being hoisted out of the wheel-chair, his inert body dumped and then carefully adjusted in the back-. seat of a convertible. But as the car, its cerulean blue matching the sky, cruises through the narrow roads of Goa, bracketed by blindingly alive fields, the breeze whistling through his hair, there's a moment of unalloyed joy when Aishwarya offers him a puff. It's as if he's inhaling life itself. Bhansali casts a brief, regretful look at the stub: "I am trying to give up". Smoking is not the only pleasure he is denying himself. 


For the master of melodrama Guzaarish is his most restrained films. Even Aishwarya Rai makes only one brief, heavy-footed run, his leitmotif otherwise. And then there's the music. Breaking away from his use of song and dance to embellish, heighten emotion, or further the plot, here he's used it to create the architecture of the story. Like the plinth you never see, it holds the film but doesn't impose on the narrative. "Though I had to fight the impulse to get Saroj Khan on my sets," he says drolly. Like Bollywood itself, one of its finest practioners isalso changing. As with all transformations there are some clunky moments and pure epiphany. What is fascinating is to hear Bhansali, a most articulate man-- though like most expressive people, sometimes specious-- to talk about that process of change. Holed up in Paris where he was directing the opera Padmavati, he says he had all the time in the world to mull over the failure of Saawariya. Like a very young girl, her beauty marred by layers of make-up, the heavy-handed treatment of Doestovsky's delicate story, indicated that the director was struggling to find the fine balance between form and content. "For months, day after day, I walked the streets of Paris, my i-pod plugged into Lata Mangeshkar's music, trying not to be bitter, realizing I couldn't be creative if I was angry or bitter. It was therapeutic. You find yourself when you walk... I knew I was done with the full-blooded, loud cinema I used to make. I had to do something different. I came back to Mumbai a changed man. More mature. Pursuit of excellence had become an obsession with me and I realized it was an illusion." It was also a disillusioning thought in some way. "I cannot," he wrings his hands with a real helplessness, "be casual about my work." What's changed is that the attendant who brings us water on a plastic tray will not have his head lopped off for not getting it on a more aesthetic platter. "After Saawariya (which he defends valiantly) I genuinely reached a point where I was thinking whether it was worth exiting at all." Guzaarish came from that place. And to those who are suing him for plagiarism, he'll see them in court, thank you.



Did he feel suicidal at any point? 


There's a sharp gust of surprised laughter. "Ho ho wow! I don't want to answer that one." But after a reflective pause he confesses to being self-destructive in many ways. "Also, since I give so much of myself in each film, I am racing faster towards the end but it's still a very personal thought...It comes in everybody's life at some point, it's how you discover the world back...and if you do not then how do you crack a joke and go.' "But now," he says earnestly, "I want to live more than I wanted to (earlier). I have lots to say." 



As also new facets to explore. For instance, his neat turn as a music director. 


"I put my life back together through music. I know a professional music director may have done a better job, but what I was feeling, what I wanted to convey, I didn't want it to get lost in translation." He promises though not to turn to cinematography next! Rhythm, what he calls laya, remains fundamental to his life and his work, be it in something as obvious as the music or choreography, the dialogues of Devdas, or in the way he cuts his films. It's also the one thing he also looks for in his actors. There are so many layers to a film being paced correctly. So Hrithik Roshan, Hindi film industry's best dancer, held motionless through most of this film, imbues his performance with a certain cadence that greatly pleases the taskmaster. "In the past I've had to work with an actress who was so out of rhythm that I'd be left tearing my hair on the sets." 



Can we name her? 


"No. No. No." For his lead actor though, no praise is lavish enough. "He brought a lot of sur and timing to his portrayal, and he's so wonderfully hard working." Hrithik who manages to look handsome and tortured simultaneously has a great resource of unvented anger, says Bhansali. Some of which is expressed in a scene involving a masochistic version of the Chinese torture. "Aishwarya too has a great fluidity," he says of his favourite actress. "With such few words she manages to say so much in the song Udi udi. That song was my tribute to Waheeda Rahman's character in Guide" Bhansali's movies are replete with references from his personal geography that resonates deeply with those who love his cinema or alienates those who don't. The Christian iconography (he goes to the Mahim Church every week and counts a Catholic school teacher as one of his big influences). The loss of a parental figure. The recurring motif of a child and mother scrounging for money. You wonder whether he has finally exorcised some of his demons. "(Sighs deeply). 


There are too many obsessions...fears to come to terms with. When you only live in a closed space with very few people and one of them goes it causes great trauma...For you realize that you're not connected to the outside world, and if one person from your life is gone then what?" In Guzaarish which has a burial sequence of Hrithik tunefully singing "It's a wonderful world" as his mother's bier is lowered into the ground, Bhansali says he's tried to come to terms with possible losses of the future. And in another sequence from the same film, with the deprivations of his childhood. Growing up in a penurious chawl at Bhuleshwar, he remembers his grandmother selling off the last of her silver and storing chillar in large Johnson baby powder tin. "Every afternoon she would count that money and put it back. "That kurr-kurr of the coins being bought out, counted and put back had to be heard again. The value of those coins doesn't exist anymore but it was an important part of my growing up." These days of course, his producers would like to hear the sound of that money at the turnstiles. There is a part of Bhansali that's pure artiste and then there's a part where his Gujarati genes firmly assert themselves. As India's highest-paid director, he is renowned for his uncompromising vision of his films, regardless of how much it may cost. Stories abound of Bharat Shah scraping money for daily shoots during the making of Devdas, then India's most expensive film at Rs 50 crore. ("It also made him pots of money," he retorst). 



Now, it's said Guzaarish cost roughly eighty crore, of which he got Rs 27 crore as his fee. 


"What! Am I mad!" he expostulates as if he's heard of these figures for the first time, strenuously denying both, and crediting UTV's Ronnie Screvwala with better business acumen. "I feel angry that my grandmother had to count those coins and that she, who once came from an affluent family, had to end up in a small chawl at Bhuleshwar because things went wrong. I won't be like that. I'll see to it that I never go in that place again, but my work is not inspired by money... I don't know how much money Guru Dutt had, I only know the films he made. I've heard that Ritwick Ghatak sold fan blades to finally get his own drink but such beautiful movies he made! I also make films. Not money. Not for myself, and not for anyone who comes to me to make them." "Though," and this is said with a glint, "I wouldn't want them to lose money." 



Quick Take 


After the failure of Khamoshi Salman told me if Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam didn't work, they wouldn't give me money to make a documentary on a cow. 



On why Aishwarya is dressed in Victorian costumes in a modern-day film: 


"It's an expression of her grief. She's a woman who has dedicated her entire life to this suffering man. And she wears that red lipstick so that when he faces her, he sees life in all its colour." 



Would Ronnie Screvwala make another film with him? 


"Of course he'll do another film with me." 



On why he didn't hold a premiere for Guzaarish 


"Oh because people from the fraternity come to you after the screening and say, "Darling, what a lovely film!" or "Well done, boy," and then go out and say, "F@@@k all film!" 



Does he sometimes suspect he's a bit cuckoo? 


(Shouts out with laughter) No. I am too sharp for that.







My films are a process of self-annihilation - Sanjay Leela Bhansali



Source: Filmicafe 

Date: November 28, 2010 



Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, often accused of making overtly flamboyant and whimsical movies, says his films create the world he lives in and are about crossing the boundaries of mainstream cinema. “Guzaarish”, his latest offering, is about the pain and isolation he faced after “Saawariya”, he says. He also believes that Aamir Khan cares about Bhansali’s films and that’s why he is so critical. “…he cares about my cinema. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t spend so much passion talking about it,” Bhansali told us. 



Q: Are you more exhausted after “Guzaarish” than you’ve ever been? 


A: I didn’t realize how tired I was until the film was over. Then my body just gave up. All my films are a process of self-annihilation for me. With every film of mine, a part of me gets left behind. With “Guzaarish”, I’ve left more than just a portion of myself behind. In it, I’ve lived the pain of facing the isolation of failure after “Saawariya”. 


Q: Was that a tough time for you? 


A: It was the toughest time of my life. Suddenly, everyone disappeared, and that included the people who had worked with me on “Saawariya” for two years. Because of the suffering, I began to get seriously interested in the subject of mercy killing. I began to read up as much as possible on the subject. My research showed that mercy killing was prohibited by law in many countries, including India. After almost a year of studying the super-sensitive subject, I concluded that every human being should have the right to die with dignity. 



Q: Are your films supposed to be for social good? 


A: No, no, I make them for selfish reasons. When I make a film about a physically challenged person, I come away with so much. I learn to value what I have. My survival instinct has sharpened after “Black” and “Guzaarish”. I met quadriplegics who have lost the use of their limbs but not their spirit. They are not dark, defeated people. Some of them are very entertaining. Our specialist on the sets, Indu Tandon, introduced me to bright people paralysed in body but liberated in spirit. They can’t feel anything in their body, and yet they are so buoyant. One of these kids, John Julius, became the hero of “Guzaarish”. Hrithik plays this caustic, undefeated hero in a wheelchair. John and Hrithik became great friends. They started exchanging e-mails. Hrithik changed John’s life completely. If my cinema can change one life, I’ve achieved what I had to achieve. 



Q: Aamir Khan thinks the little girl in “Black” (Ayesha Kapoor) was treated brutally? 


A: Yes, I keep hearing that the girl was traumatised. But Behroze Vaccha, who has spent all her life working with deaf and blind, thought otherwise. So whom should I believe? I don’t worry about what others have to say. My proudest moment was when the principal of the Helen Keller Institute told me after “Black” that what she couldn’t achieve in 60 years, I did with that one film. I rest my case. 



Q: Aamir had a lot of problems with your “Devdas” and “Black”. 


A: He did. But that’s because he cares about my cinema. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t spend so much passion talking about it. He may not agree with what I do in my films, but finally, I make what I have to make. I appreciate it when an actor of his calibre brings out a certain perspective on my cinema. As long as the intentions are not to run my cinema down, I am open to all criticism. Aamir’s concern is genuine. He has problems with my cinema, just as I may have problems with a lot of his performances. 



Q: “Guzaarish” has a lot of references to magic and magicians. 


A: I feel life has a lot of magic in it. A smile, a film, a performance or a song by Lataji…they are all magic. Magic should not just be illusory. In my film, a magician transforms into a man who can bring smiles to people’s faces. That, to me, is magic. Life is magic. Mother Teresa and Lata Mangeshkar are magicians. 



Q: Why are your films so often set in the Anglo-Indian community? 


A: That’s the influence of my school and teachers. The passion with which they taught, the homes in which they lived and where I was invited to on rare occasions…I was enamoured of their lives, their eating habits, their red wine in crystal glasses. It was so different from the Gujarati life that I led in my chawl in Bhuleshwar. It provided me an alternate reality. 



Q: Did Hrithik actually learn magic tricks and put on weight for his role? 


A: I don’t believe in method acting. I don’t instruct my actors too closely. I just tell them what I want. I wanted Hrithik to know his character’s state of mind. If he played a magician, he knew he had to learn magic tricks. A person who is in bed for 14 years had to be flabby. I am glad Hrithik has reached a stage in his career where he’s ready to surrender to a role and not be concerned only with looking good. 



Q: You’ve also composed the songs in “Guzaarish”. How different is it from getting the music from other composers? 


A: You can never get the exact music you want from others. Since you know your characters, you know exactly what kind of emotion they would feel. The songs came from deep within me. The music in “Guzaarish” is my own and very important. My reward was when Amitabh Bachchan said he loved it. It meant so much to me. I never thought the music would have such a strong appeal for the young. The fact that my songs have connected with the young makes me want to go deeper into music. 


Q: People are commenting on the self-contained no-man’s land in which your cinema unfolds. 


A: My films are my world. It’s my own world that I show in my cinema. It’s a world different from the real world and different from the word you see in other people’s films. My “Devdas” was not set in 1939; it was timeless. This doesn’t mean I’d show Devdas talking on a cellphone. I want that moment that bonds two lovers to be relevant even a hundred years from now. For me, the joy of crossing the boundaries of mainstream cinema is what making films is about. I’ve great faith in the audience. 



Q: Is it tough to have so many expectations riding on you? 


A: No, it’s a privilege and a joy. I always want to make films from my heart.