The ace-director says he is unaware of the things Salman is upset about!
I meet Sanjay Bhansali in his Juhu office, where he is sitting and reading text messages and receiving congratulatory calls on the success of his latest film Bajirao Mastani. He greets me warmly and we discuss the accomplishment of his 12-year-long dream to make Bajirao Mastani. During the course of our chat, he opens up about the much-talked-about clash with Dilwale and his fractured relationship with one-time-friend Salman Khan and why he has turned from Black to White. Read excerpts from our chat.....
Bajirao Mastani is doing great business despite competition from Dilwale, is there a sense of validation?
There is a sense of joy more than validation. The first and most important reason why a filmmaker makes a film is to show it to people so they get something out of it creatively. And when it translates into box-office figures, that is a moment of joy. And honestly, I don’t really know anything about any other film competing with it. When you realise your cherished dream and that it has reached people with that same sense of madness and passion and love you are supposed to fulfil it with, that is more important. So, for me, the hard work has paid off, the inspired state that I was in, has paid off.
Were you nervous when you realised your film was clashing with an SRK release ?
We announced our film first and we announced it with the star cast and with the release date a year and a half ago. Dilwale was never in the picture. Six months later, we got to know there is a film coming on the same date, I had a nice friendly conversation about the clash with Shah Rukh, who’s a very dear friend. Later, I realised that neither Eros or Shah Rukh wanted to move the date, so one does move on. But I never made the film out of fear of what the other film would be like, because they are two different genres, two different directors and approaches. I am coming with the madness of fulfilling my dream and to mount a film of this proportion wasn’t an easy task. My focus was always to get my scenes right. It was never about somebody coming one week after me, or with me. You can’t work in a state of fear.
Given the amount of hard work that went, don’t you wish the audience wasn’t given a choice and just watched Bajirao Mastani?
I wish, that would be the ideal condition. That is how a film like this which is made as a tribute to how Pakeezah, Mughal-e-Azam, Raj Kapoor’s films and V Shantaram’s films should be watched. It is not my film, it is a tribute to all the brilliant minds that work together to say this is what Bollywood is known in the West for. So, yes, when a film like this is made once in 20 years, you would want the audience to see it uninterrupted, undisturbed, but now it has happened and there’s nothing one can do about it.
There were rumours that you were planning to change the release date mid way, is that true?
Not at all. The decision to release on December 18 was always Kishore Lulla’s (Eros) and he said it is never to be moved. And I asked him before the first teaser came out in August if he wanted us to release on December 18 and he said yes. That we were not moving that date. Yes, there was speculation that we were shifting, but I have no idea where it came from.
Did you miss Salman and Kareena, given the fact that they were your original Bajirao and Mastani?
I love Salman and Kareena and the idea of making the film with them was fabulous. That idea excited me immensely. But it didn’t work out, the destiny of every film is with the chosen actor. Many people believed that this film was jinxed, that it would never happen, that it didn’t have the blessings of the right people. I feel when the real Bajirao Mastani’s souls blessed the film. it happened. They are great people with that aura, who must have wanted this film to happen.
How did you see Bajirao in Ranveer?
That’s the fun of it, when I see someone and decide to cast him in a role that no one could have imagined, that excites me. The unexpected excites me, it keep me simulated. It was interesting to cast Ranveer and tell him to shave his head off and tell him to play a Maratha warrior. He is a wonderful actor, he is like clay you can do anything with him.
Ranveer told me you have changed his life forever. What’s your equation like with him...
I feel the relationship is so spontaneous and yet, so quiet. It has much respect in it. There is also surrender and freedom. There is lot of love and respect from both of us towards each other and the freedom is more important.
Like I have given him this scene on the set and now let me see how he interprets it. I don’t impose myself on him, I just guide him and then I expect total surrender. Something that Ranveer knows very well. We don’t talk too much, we don’t discuss too much, we don’t meet too often. I have had this chemistry with Rani and Salman — you have to love the actor. I had that with Aishwarya and now Deepika. Deepika is my greatest joy in Bajirao Mastani. If Guru Dutt had seen Bajirao Mastani he would pat her on the back. That is Waheeda Rahman’s legacy but Deepika took it ahead and portrayed it so effortlessly — fragile yet power-packed. It is the most dignified performance of all time — after Waheeda Rahman in any Guru Dutt flm.
You mentioned Rani and Aishwarya as some of your favourite people to work with. Will we see you working with them in the future ?
I feel that but I also feel that some magic has to remain what it was, as you can’t recreate that. But these people are very special. A lot people feel I am rude, arrogant, disinterested, but I am the other side. I love all the people I have worked with, be it Rani who loves me, Aishwarya who I never need to say a word to and she’s there for me. With Salman I had that too but Salman is still upset about a few things which I don’t know about, but those moments are special. Now Ranveer has come into that space for me.
You have stopped wearing black kurtas and now I see you in white all the time. How come ?
You noticed it! (laughs) I am feeling happier, brighter. I want to change a few things in my life, I want to become more accessible, reach out to more directors, talk to them, sit and have tea with them. I have never done any of these things, I have always remained quiet in my room.
How do you react to these allegations that you are a very difficult and temperamental person to work with — you throw phones at actors etc.
This is not true at all. My actors never. I am only upset with my crew while brainstorming or arguing about something. It’s just that when I leave the car and land up on my set, I am alert, I am on a different level, my work takes over and I become this person who can see things differently. So when I am working with you, then you need to match up. If you are going to drop coffee on my script or tear my paper then I am going to get upset. So that much anger you should allow me. And if that is being made into a notion that he’s temperamental and throws phones then it’s wrong.
Talk to me about the influence of your pet Lady Popo in your life, she finds a place in your credit roll?..?
Lady Popo is the actual catalyst in my life, she changed my whole thinking. If I get angry and and come home she starts pawing me, so I bring my voice down. So I stopped shouting, talking loudly, getting angry. Lady Popo has changed my entire life and she comes to my office every day, sits on edit every day, she would come on shooting one in a while, but her atmosphere and vibe brings change in office.
Any plans to celebrate the success? What’s next ?
No celebration. I am just very pensive, quiet. Lots of love and admiration coming my way which I am enjoying.
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