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Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heroines Never Look  Better



Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi

Alia Bhatt should  retire after Gangubai Kathiawadi. Nothing she  does  hereafter will compare even remotely with what she has achieved under the super-vision  of  Bhansali. She is  not the  first. Run your memory back to the heroines  Bhansali  worked with. They  were never better. Or even close.

The  ethereal Manisha Koirala who   starred  in Bhansali’s directorial debut Khamoshi :The Musical never looked better nor emoted with such excruciating  intensity in any of her  later  films. Sure, Manisha did have  her moments in Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se, but nothing as epiphanic as Khamoshi which came after her other  outstanding performance in  Mani Ratnam’s Bombay.

Speaking about why she couldn’t better her score after Khamoshi , Manisha said to me, “That’s because Bhansali sets  impossible standards  which other  filmmaker cannot  dream  of achieving.”

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan  was immortalized  in Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Guzaarish. She never scaled  the same heights  of  excellence in any of her other premium  projects, be  it Subhash  Ghai’s Taal or Rituparno Ghosh’s Raincoat. I remember during Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam Aishwarya  was  apportioning  shooting dates  between  Bhansali and  Ghai(for Taal) triggering a wave  of  rage and annoyance in Bhansali.

No wonder he   moved  to  Deepika Padukone soon  after Guzaarish. It was  meant to be Kareena  Kapoor Khan in Bajirao Mastani . They even did  a  photoshoot together where  I was  present. It would have been  THE  film that she would have proudly shown to  Taimur and Jehangir to let them know what their mother was  capable  of.

Alas,that was not meant to be. Kareena was  also finalized  for  Ram Leela  and then dropped for Deepika who gladly stepped  in . The rest as they say  is hysteria. In her three  back-to-back  opuses  with Bhansali—Goliyon Ki Raasleela  Ram Leela , Bajirao Mastani  and Padmaavat—Deepika immortalized  herself  in the way no  Piku or  Gehraiyaan  could do.

 “There is something magical about what Bhansali does to his  heroines. I am known to nake them  look  good on screen. But I don’t think Ash looked  as good in my Chokher Bali as she  did in Sanjay Bhansali’s  Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. And Manisha in  Khamoshi  was ethereal,”  the late Rituparno Ghosh once told me .

 Now  after three films with Deepika , Bhansali has broken the chain again with Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi. It is  a performance that will be discussed for many weeks  months and years   to come. Bhansali virtually had to groom and wean Alia  into  a culture that she  had  no idea oh. Her walk,  her voice quality , her facial expressions are all different from what she has done so far. It is  a completely transformative  performance.She can never  outdo what she has done in Gangubai . Not even in  Baiju Bawra for which they will team  up  next.

Speaking of his heroines Sanjay Bhansali admits he works hard on their looks and emotions. “I take them into areas  of their personality they’ve never been. But for them to get there, those areas need  to exist. If Manisha, Aishwarya, Deepika and now Alia didn’t have it in them how could I have got it  out of them?”

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