'Devdas isn't jinxed'
Sanjay Leela Bhansali on his Rs 500 million piece de resistance
When Sanjay Leela Bhansali decided to remake Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's romantic classic Devdas, little did he know what he was getting into.
Though the experience of recreating the magic with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit was fulfilling, there were constant rumours about the film's financial sources and the pressure of putting together what promised to the most exquisite tale of tragic love since Bimal Roy's 1955 Devdas.
But Sanjay was undaunted, he tells Subhash K Jha:
Is Devdas really jinxed?
Anyone who thinks my set burnt down is welcome to verify my statement. It was a small fire in a shed where some drapes caught fire. My set was not damaged. Why is the film jinxed? If the fire was so devastating, how could we have started shooting 36 hours after the accident?
All the talk about black magic, jinx and jealous elements has became too much. We were trying to make a good film. It was even written in a section of the press that we were not taking good care of the crew --- that I make unbelievable demands on my technicians.
I have never seen a more charged and passionate group of actors. You cannot imagine the level of commitment Shah Rukh, Madhuri, Aishwarya and the rest of the cast have shown. Each time there was a problem, they were enthused to work harder. I could not have expected more from them. Yes, we did have problems on the sets. They only made us want to do better.
Could your inaccessibility be a reason for the unfair speculation?
I have not been deliberately inaccessible. There is no secrecy about the project. I did not talk about the film to the media because I did not have the time nor energy. If you talk about the film prematurely, it gets overhyped. If you do not, the press misinform the public.
The media wrote that someone from the unit tried to sabotage the film by causing the recent fire. But these people stood by me like pillars of strength. Every member of the unit worked hard. Even the day after the fire, we shot with Madhuri and Jackie without missing a beat.
Which film does not face problems? Look at the scale of my film. This is a very exciting time for mainstream Hindi cinema. After films like Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan, Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai and Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar, we should encourage directors to try new themes.
Earlier, good cinema was synonymous with parallel cinema. Now you should applaud mainstream cinema that is trying to be different. Everyone says, let us make good films. But when someone tries to do so, do not call his effort jinxed.
How many sets did you erect ?
About ten sets --- all done by Nitin Desai.
Tell us about your supporting cast...
Jackie Shroff is Devdas' best friend Chunnilal. What a terrific Chunnilal he makes! He looks stunning in a dhoti. I can think of no other actor as Chunnilal. Kiron Kher plays Paro's mother, Smita Jayakar plays Devdas' mother. Vijay Crishna, Devdas' father, is a theatre personality. Vijayendra Ghatge plays Paro's husband and Dina Pathak is her mother-in-law. Then we have Abha Mukherjee as Devdas' grandmother. She is so adorable, she is an angel! All of us took turns holding her hand whenever we were tense.
What about Shah Rukh?
He has gone beyond my expectations by giving an outstanding performance. He cannot match up to Dilip Kumar's Devdas. He has not tried to. Shah Rukh plays him differently.
I am extremely happy with everyone's performance, including [cinematographer] Binod Pradhan. I had watched him working when I was assisting Vidhu Vinod Chopra in 1942 - A Love Story.
It must have been a trying experience.
Yes. I do not know what PC Barua and Bimal Roy went through. I have heard they, too, had their own share of problems while making their Devdas. I was so tense, I put on weight. I ate all the time. The only thing I did to relax was listen to Lataji's songs.
ALSO READ: The Devdas Special