Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali are a creative force to reckon with. With three successful films - Ram Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat under their belt, they definitely make a formidable pair at the ticket window. Who would have thought that Deepika and SLB would actually become such a favoured actor-director duo and emerge as a victorious pairing. Of course Ranveer Singh, who is present in all these three films, also plays an important part in the success story, but this conversation is not about him. It is about the Deepika-Bhansali fatigue that might seep into the audience if the two don't take a much needed break from each other. Let's dissect this a bit more. Deepika started her career in 2008 with Om Shanti Om, ironically clashing with a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film - Saawariya, starring a one-time rival Sonam Kapoor. Om Shanti Om was a huge hit while Saawariya sank in the hues of its blue tinted mega budget misadventure. Neither Deepika nor Sanjay might have foreseen that fate and destiny might have a different game plan for them in the not so distant future.
While Deepika worked with several directors and carved her own path after OSO, Sanjay, too, brought his myriad stories alive on the big screen in the same time period. But things changed in 2013 when he cast Deepika in Golyon Ki Raasleela...Ram Leela. It was a bold choice for the director to invest in an actress who had till then played characters that meandered within the boundaries of what was considered 'safe' and 'commercial.' Not that Ram Leela was an off beat film, but there were naysayers who questioned SLB's choice and wondered if Deepika would be able to brave her way through what would be the most demanding and taxing role of her life. Ram Leela was a success and it also gave Deepika several awards and acting recognition that had eluded her since the beginning of her career. Yes, Cocktail and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani were both great roles, but they lacked the scale and canvas that a SLB offered.
After a break of two years, Deepika was back for round two in yet another Bhansali film - Bajirao Mastani. This time the scale was bigger and the role even more complex. Deepika had to play the lover of the Peshwa king, Mastani, who was never given the title of a wife. Bajirao Mastani worked at the box-office despite stiff competition from Shah Rukh Khan-Rohit Shetty's Dilwale, and trade pundits who second guessed Deepika and SLB's pairing were proved wrong. The Deepika in Bajirao Mastani seemed much confident and at ease than the one in Ram Leela. She had fine-tuned her craft and knew the nuances and mannerisms her extremely sharp director would demand of her. In all their interactions there as no denying the fact that Deepika and Sanjay went beyond their regular work equation and had huge respect and love for each other off camera. The praise for each other was equivocal too.
With Padmavati or Padmaavat, Sanjay and Deepika developed an acute sense of camaraderie that is often missing from a film set. Playing the title role of the Queen who jumped in the fire to save the pride of her clan wasn't going to be an easy task. I am guessing the Padmaavat drama must have made their bond even more strong. But does that mean that Deepika and Sanjay should continue to do more films in the future? Does it mean that Sanjay's obsession with his muse will have no end? The answer isn't exactly a straight yes or no. Given the enormous critical and commercial success that Padmaavat is enjoying, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if she features in yet another SLB project. But the right thing to do perhaps for both would be to invest their creative sensibilities in other places until something really worth their while comes along.
The audience will always be hungry for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Deepika Padukone film, but the audience is also now tuned into what to expect and the predictability of this combination might prove detrimental to their next outing. Between Ram Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, Deepika and SLB have given us moments to cherish for a lifetime. Perhaps a short break in a different direction might help them nurture their legacy better.
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