Sanjay Bhansali On Why All His Films End In Tragedy

All the cinema in  Sanjay Leela Bhansali(SLB)’s dazzling oeuvre ends on a note of the darkest tragedy. This is true of every glistening masterpiece from Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)to his latest Padmavati where Deepika Padukone’s character perishes in the holy fire of  Jauhar rather than succumb to the advances of the enemy.

“Pain suffering hurt and eventual healing…These are the constants in my life.And they’re bound to show up in one form or another in all my work,” says SLB, currently confronted by the biggest crisis of his career asPadmavati get attacked by radical elements who want nothing less than SLB’s head.

“I am no stranger to pain and suffering. It’s happened in one form or another throughout my life,” says SLBcryptically.

Making his directorial debut in Khamoshi: The Musical was not easy. There are mythical stories of wild arguments on location in  Goa with Nana Patekar who wanted to interpret the character of the deaf and mute possessive father in his own way while the director pulled the other way.

Khamoshi was meant to end with the tragic death of Anna(Manisha Koirala). But the producers forced SLB to go for a strained happy ending.

He regrets giving in to pressures. “But I had no choice. If today I had to remake Khamosh The Musical  I’d restore the  original tragic ending.”

SLB’s second film  Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) had a happy ending for Ajay Devgan’s love story. But a very sad ending for Salman Khan.Ajay got Aishwarya.Salman didn’t. Salman was so pissed off with the finale that he got his mentor Sooraj Barjatya to come and convince  SLB that Aishwarya’s character should go with Salman.

SLB stuck to his guns.

“One man’s grief is another man’s joy.” He says  mysteriously. “In  Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Namak Haraam bothAmitabh Bachchan Saab and Rajesh Khanna Saab wanted to  die at the end.Hrishida announced the winner’s name by putting a garlanded photograph of Khanna Saab on the set.”

Next up, Devdas. The ultimate romantic tragedy. It was shot under the most grueling circumstances, what with the producer  under the police’ s scanner for underworld links going in and  out of the hospital.

Recalls Sanjay, “I’d shoot one day then wait for the  money for next day’s shooting…”

It came to a point where the actors were shooting without pay, until one day one  of the leads refused to shoot.

Pehle paise phir shooting,” proclaimed the lead.

“I had to rush out of the shooting somehow arrange for  the  money before we resumed shooting,” recalls Sanjay.

 Devdas’s finale where Shah Rukh Khan had to die on his beloved’s doorstep remains  the most gut-wrenching culmination  of unfulfilled love ever seen in a Hindi film.

SLB’s next Black again had a grim tragic death at the end. When the  director shot Amitabh Bachchan’s death sequence he went into a deep depression for days thereafter.

“Bachchan Saab is  the kind of actor who makes dying on screen seem like  a poetic statement.Think of all his famous  death scenes. I still get  goosebumps…We were all in a depression for  a very long time,” recalls SLB.

The  filmmakers was determined to not let the finale  of his next film Guzaarish become dark and tragic , although  it was  about a quadriplegic man opting for euthanasia.

“We were determined  to not show the death of  the hero(Hrithik Roshan) even though  the  film was about euthanasia. By then I had enough on death and dying,” says SLB.

By the time he came to Saawariya death was  the last thing  on his mind.  But yes, the film was an opera-on-film about the death of love. Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t get Sonam Kapoor in the end.

 Then came the  three back-to-back costume dramas. Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Ram Leela,  the gujju Romeo & Julietand then Bajirao Mastani, both ended on notes of abject tragedy. The same   is true of  Padmavati where the Queen’s struggle  for self-preservation ends  in mass  self-immolation.

Fire, death, suffering, hurt….these have dominated Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision throughout his career so far.

How does he manage to keep himself from falling apart  under the weight of the endless creative angst?

“I  don’t know. I  think it’s  the suffering that propels me forward. I feel if I don’t have to struggle to make  a film it may not be fulfilling at all,” says SLB.

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