In 2010, he made the critically acclaimed film, Guzaarish. Since then, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali has not directed anything. But now, he is set to take on the role once again for his next, tentatively titled Ram Leela. Interestingly, Bhansali’s new film has also brought Kareena Kapoor’s 13-year-long wait to an end. “We have wanted to work together for a while and I am immensely excited. We met for the first time around the release of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). She was working on her debut, Refugee (2000), then. So, we’ve been constantly thinking and talking to each other. I’m happy that this has finally worked out now,” says Bhansali.
Ask the Devdas (2002) director anything about Ram Leela and he corrects us first, “It’s not titled Ram Leela. Let’s call it my new film with Kareena and Ranveer (Ranveer Singh). It’s a full-on masala movie and is in the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam kind of space. I am going to have a blast.”
Revealing that he was impressed with “wonderful” Ranveer’s acting in Band Baaja Baraat, Bhansali adds, “He is a great guy to work with. Plus, with 11 songs and great locales, I feel the chemistry between Ranveer and Kareena is going to rock,” adds Bhansali, who plans to take the film on the floors this July.
For the longest time, rumours suggested that Ranbir Kapoor and Sonkashi Sinha were being cast for this project? “Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna (people will keep saying these things, it’s their job). There’s always some other star cast that’s named every time I start a new film. I have always faced such issues with my films. All I have to say is, I have chosen these people, dekho na inko (please see them). What’s in your mind is a different matter.’
Excerpts from interview:
Rowdy Rathore’s (RR) promos and songs have struck a chord with the masses, did you expect such a response?
It’s a good feeling since it’s cutting across age groups and entertaining people. It’s the kind of film that we set out to make. And so far from people’s reactions, it looks like we have achieved some part of what we wanted.
It doesn’t look like a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film…
It isn’t supposed to look like a Bhansali film. If I could make RR, I wouldn’t have called in another director to make it. I am producing three kinds of films (RR, Shirin Farhad Ki Nikal Padi and an untitled project) that I may not make, might not be able to make or am not ready to make. But these are the kind of films that excite me as a producer.
But the idea came to you, right?
Yes. I loved Vikramarkudu (2006) from the word go. When Shabina Khan (co-producer) and I watched the film, we instantly liked it. I have been brought up in an area where film theatres like Alankar, Raj Talkies and Moti Talkies were always playing massy movies. And we would run to watch films like Chor Machaye Shor (1974).
Why a masala film?
When it comes to entertainment, it better be a masala film. I used to make such films earlier. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (HDDCS, 1999) had a lot of masala, though not the same as RR. Devdas (2003), too, was a masala film in its own way.
You think audiences only want over-the-top masala films now?
They also take a film like Kahaani to a great conclusion. So, there’s some reassurance that good films will work. But the dominating mood is entertainment now. Maybe because tickets are expensive, the audience wants their money’s worth. It’s not about watching art anymore. Cinema is no longer an art (in India).
So successful film means pure entertainment?
In essence, film viewing has become very celebrative in India. It’s like a festival now — to go for a film that gives one all the joy, laughter, fun, action, romance, seetis (whistles) and taalis (claps). Look at me, I started off with a serious film like Khamoshi (1996). But when it bombed, I jumped into HDDCS with 11 songs and family melodrama.
Has the offbeat film space shrunk?
It hasn’t. But we need that nautanki and tamasha (drama). It’s our tradition and legacy. (Indian) filmmakers should realise that this is where we all belong. Even if we make an experimental film, its melodrama needs to be balanced, if you want to reach out to places like Rai Barelly and Jhumri Telaiya, and even Mumbai.
Your plate seems full for now…
Yes, next is Shirin Farhad Ki Nikal Padi (SFKNP) and it’s special to me since it’s my sister’s (Bela Segal) first film with Farah (Khan) as the heroine. Then, my own film is coming up. Plus I’m also producing two other films. I hope I have enough mental and physical strength to carry on.
How was it working with Farah?
With SFKNP, Farah will change the filmmaking trend in a way (laughs). I can’t tell you how much we cried after watching the film. We have fought, come together, and then again fought and come back. I think we are made and destined to live (with each other) like that.
You went to Cannes in 2002. Do you feel a lot has changed now?
At one point, a festival was where the world that didn’t have access to each other’s cinema would watch films. It’s always prestigious to be a part of it. But somewhere, we are reducing Cannes to only fashion, beauty and red carpet.