On His 55th Birthday Sanjay Leela Bhanshali Remembers His First Hit!

Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam(1999)  HAD to be  a success. I had gone through the trauma of a failed first film with Khamoshi: The Musical.

I had poured my heart into it. I still remember my shock,grief and rage when I saw people reacting unfavourably to it in the theatres. It broke my heart. Failure is a very isolating experience. You can’t share it with even those closest to you. Failure lowers your morale and selfesteem. It also makes actors wary of working with you. But I had Salman Khan’s support. When I did my first film he supported me. When I did my second film I was one flop old. He was still with me.Then Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya also came on.  We had a great time shooting .While I was making Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam I never thought it would be so special to the audience. I did what came naturally to my heart. Salman, Ajay ,Aishwarya and I were bonded right from Gujarat to Budapest. It was an exhausting but immensely satisfying experience. Being a Gujju I chose to set Hum…Dil in a Gujarati family. It was my comfort zone. I made the film in a completely relaxed state of mind.I got an amazing set of actors to work with me. Vinay Pathak, Sheeba Chadha, Vikram Gokhale, Smita Jaykar, Kenny Desai, not to mention the two most amazing veteran actresses Zohra Sehgalji and Helen Aunty.  They all embraced the film .I felt blessed.We became one large family and shot the film exactly in that buoyant mood which audiences saw in the film. When it opened  there was the usual naysayers. My blood froze when distributors complained of the film’s length and even cut one song in some centres, the kite –flying ceremony Dheel de without my permission. I was furious. Adding to my anxiety were the loud cynics who questioned the film’s supposedly conservative ending whereby  Aishwarya’s character Nandini chose to remain with her husband Ajay Devgn rather than go off with her beloved Salman. They said I was playing it safe. I said I was playing it from my heart. To my relief the film settled down at the boxoffice and became a big success. I can’t tell you the relief and joy I felt. I was surprised at how audiences connected with the film’s nuances. A lot of praise came my way for the songs and the way they were shot. I was asked how I thought of shooting the Aankhon ki gustaakhiyan number as a musical set during a wedding without making it a typical ‘wedding song’. My greatest compliment came from my idol Lata Mangeshkarji who complimented Ismail Durbar’s title song.Salman and Ajay, I maintain they gave their career’s best performances in Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam  .As for Aishwarya we forged a bonding that has lasted to this day.Now when I’m back shooting another love story set in  Gujarat I keep remembering those days of Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam when all of us associated with the project were younger and more reckless. I was not afraid to make mistakes.Now I have to be more conscious.”

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