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14 Years Of Saawariya, The Film That Is Closest To Bhansali’s Heart




Being a close friend  of  Sanjay Bhansali I was never closer to any of his films than Saawariya. I spent many evenings  with  his two  protégés  Ranbir Kapoor and  Sonam Kapoor  and also watched them  shoot the  film.

It  was  a revelation. I could see Ranbir was  born for the camera. He was  also  great fun to be with, mimicking everyone from Shah Rukh to Hrithik Roshan. When the camera came on he was transformed like Geeta Bali,  Sridevi  and his own father  Rishi Kapoor(though I still think the senior Kapoor  to be  a better actor). And when  Ranbir danced, he  conveyed such joy such a state  of liberation.It was like watching a  male version  if Waheeda Rehman  doing Aaj phir jeene ki tammanah hai.

Sonam, I am afraid, was  not  that easy to direct. In fact she took  a lot more time to get into the  groove than Ranbir. I remember  one day while shooting the  song  Hamari jaan ho tum, Ranbir got the steps right  in one take. Sonam  just couldn’t get it  right. The entire day passed.  I could see Sanjay  getting more and  more disturbed as the  clock  ticked away.

 There came  a time when one day  during the shooting in Karjat,  Sanjay decided to  relieve Sonam  from the  film. It took all of my persuasive powers  and  that of Sanjay’s sister Bela to dissuade  Sanjay from the disastrous move. Of course all was  well  eventually and Sonam  went on to become  a dependable  actress in Neerja and other  films.

Saawariya was  not destined for immediate success. Its operatic  movement, and its blue-shaded romance  took  a  long while to  register with the audience. I remember my dear much-missed friend Rituparno Ghosh and I embroiled  in heated  debates over the film. He hated it the first time. He  loved  it the second time. And was gracious enough to call me and apologize. Every one  who bitched  about the  film should apologize.  Saawariya was  to Sanjay Leela  Bhansali’s career what Mera Naam Joker and  Kaagaz Ke Phool were  to Raj Kapoor and  Guru Dutt.

 The  premiere night itself  was  a disaster.  The hero’s father Rishi Kapoor didn’t like  the film and he didn’t hide the fact that he  didn’t. A  leading filmmaker known for his glamorous  profile  and elitist coterie  of groupies was frantically sending  text messages  to all his friends with two words—Shit Film— in a row next to where  I was  sitting. Elsewhere Kangana Ranaut was angry with me  for reasons I  can’t recall.

 The  next morning when Saawariya released everyone associated with the  film had disappeared  from Sanjay’s life. The next few days  were  the  most  painful time  of  the director’s life. How painful? Ask any successful  director when he delivers an unexpected  flop. Today  Saawariya is  regarded as a  cult film.  I don’t think Ranbir Kapoor  could ever match the  artless ebullience  of  that  performance.  You see,  back then he didn’t know he  was  so good.

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