The maverick director who gave us gems like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Black and Guzaarish turns 49 today. We take a look at his work
Born to a humble Gujarati family on February 24, 1963, Sanjay Leela Bhansali studied editing at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). He first worked in Bollywood as an assistant to filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra on Parinda, 1942: A Love Story and Kareeb. Bhansali made his directorial debut in 1996 with Khamoshi: The Musical which starred his one-time good friend Salman Khan, along with Manisha Koirala, Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas. The film was not a hit but garnered critical acclaim. Bhansali’s next – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam – came three years later. It was a lavish film starring another good friend Aishwarya Rai along with Salman and Ajay Devgn. The love triangle with a tragic end worked and the film went on to become a hit.
The director attempted Devdas with Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya and Madhuri Dixit in 2002 – an old classic reworked with opulent sets, music and great cinematography. In 2005, Bhansali made Black with Rani Mukerji and Amitabh Bachchan. The dark film was an adaptation of Hollywood’s The Miracle Worker, and went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film as well as 11 Filmfare awards.
Unfortunately, Bhansali’s launchpad for his protégés Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor bombed at the box office in 2007. Saawariya – an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s story White Nights – also starred his lucky mascot Salman Khan but the film did not appeal to viewers. The director tried to cast his two fave actors Salman and Aishwarya in Bajirao Mastani, but the breakup of the two stars made it impossible for him to even begin the film. But he cast Aishwarya with Hrithik Roshan in his last outing, Guzaarish (2010). The tragic true story about a paraplegic patient’s euthanasia plea won hearts but no moolah at the BO. Bhansali even tried his hand at composing music for this film and wethinks he did a decent job although the tunes were not in the ‘with it’ category.
But the failure of his last two films made the brooding director half-heartedly produce My Friend Pinto while backing out of Chenab Gandhi . He also appeared as judge on the first season of X Factor India and also announced his foray into TV production. Somewhere the director now feels he needs to lighten up and move with the times as far as his films are concerned, and so is also producing Akshay Kumar’s Rowdy Rathore. But we certainly miss his style of filmmaking amongst the Dabanggs and the Bodyguards of today! Do you?