MUMBAI: While ‘Rowdy Rathore’ is shining at the box-office, many have criticized film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali from shifting from his usual genres. In a exclusive interview, Bhansali defends himself.
‘Rowdy Rathore’ is being seen as a work of compromised art by people who expect you to make ‘Devdas’, ‘Black’ and ‘Guzaarish’?
"Why would I only produce the films that I’d want to direct myself? Why shouldn’t I produce the kind of films that perhaps somewhere I enjoy watching, have grown up watching? My father(Naveen Bhansali) produced a film called ‘Jahaaji Lootera’. It was a fun potboiler featuring the swashbuckling hero of those times Jairaj. It was like ‘The Pirates of The Caribbean’ of those times. Somewhere in my subconscious ‘Jahaaji Lootere’ has remained embedded. It has now surfaced in ‘Rowdy Rathore’."
But critics who associate you with the aesthetics of Black are shocked?
"Luckily all kinds of films are being made today. But the one genre that continues its successful run is the potboiler. It cuts across all sections of the audience. ‘Rowdy Rathore’ is the kind of film I used to clap and cheer for as a child at Alankar Talkies and Imperial Talkies like. Last week when I visited Chandan Talkies members of the audience came forward to shake my hand and hug me warmly. Something I’ve never experienced after any of my own self-directed films. It’s all new to me. And I’m enjoying myself thoroughly. No one can make me feel guilty or apologetic just because I’ve had as much fun producing ‘Rowdy Rathore’ as I dad directing ‘Black’. I feel rejuvenated and born-again."
So is Rowdy Rathore going to be the new benchmark of Sanjay Leela Bhansali productions?
"Not the films I direct.I’m very convinced about my aesthetics.I am very proud of ‘Black’ and ‘Guzaarish’. But I am not new to mass acceptance. My ‘Devdas’ had created the same euphoria. That was a difference sur but nonetheless done in the ooncha sur. Lataji sings the soft ‘Allah tero naam’ and the massy ‘Bangle ke peeche’ with equal flawlessness. I can’t claim to be as versatile. I will direct the films I am comfortable with.The films I direct will continue to reveal my aesthetics. See, as a child my father would insist that we see ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ and ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’. One celebrated a long-gone imperial culture, the other was modern and peppy. But to me they both are equally entertaining. My father would insist that I listen to the great Hindustani classical vocalists. I grew up looking at Amir Khan Saab’s singing and Lataji’s singing as representing an equally invigorating experience. Maybe I can’t make a ‘Jahaaji Lootere’ or ‘Rowdy Rathore’. But they’re an important part of our cinema. And it’s nice to participate in their making. This is the cinema that reaches to millions."
So you did it for the box-office?
"No, for the joy of making the kind of cinema I grew up watching.No one can predict the outcome at the boxoffice and make films accordingly.But who doesn’t want produce successful films? ‘Devdas’ was made within the popular format. But the aesthetice were different from ‘Rowdy Rathore’. I can’t direct the films that Prabhu Deva can. I admit I wouldn’t be comfortable doing this. It comes naturally to Prabhu Deva.I want to produce such films. It isn’t easy to make ‘Rowdy Rathore’. It requires a lot of skill to make the kind of cinema where audiences jump out of their seats whistling and clapping. Didn’t you enjoy the film?"
Yes, is ‘Rowdy Rathore’ a new beginning for you ?
"As a humanbeing I’ve lately become far more outgoing. I enjoy the changes in me.The suffering and intensity can never leave me. I now look forward to the sunshine and that will reflect in my next film I direct which has two of the sunniest stars Kareena and Ranveer Singh."
How will ‘Rowdy Rathore’ change your attitude to filmmaking?
"As a filmmaker ‘Rowdy Rathore’ has opened new doors in my vision. A certain kind of flamboyance will be part of the film I direct and produce henceforth. ‘Rowdy Rathore’ has put me in a happy positive frame of mind.I want to celebrate with my team, UTV, Prabhu Deva, Shabina Khan, Akshay and Sonakshi. This success is actually theirs. The film just happened. No stress. No fights. Only dancing and singing. And that joy reflects in the product."
What are you producing next?
"Another South Indian remake.Of course remakes are the easy way out.I produced an original script ‘My Friend Pinto’. No one came to see it. I want to make films that reach out to a wide audience. I will now make films that would exude the mitti ki khushboo. I won’t pick up any and every film for remake"
There are elements of your vision in ‘Rowdy Rathore’. The shaadi sequence reminded me of ‘Aankhon ki gustakhiyan’ from ‘Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam’?
"No. I was no part of the creative process of ‘Rowdy Rathore’. It’s completely Prabu Deva’s film. And I am very happy with what he has made.I absolutely stand by the product.Who can deny success? I make no apologies to those who think I’ve betrayed my own aesthetics for money. Rowdy is as much me as ‘Guzaarish’. Rowdy represents the traditional commercial cinema with all its noise colour and drama.It renews my faith and self-confidence in my own artistry .A moment like ‘Rowdy Rathore’ doesn’t come too often in a filmmaker’s life. Let me enjoy it. I am smiling a little more."
"I don’t know how to host one. Maybe my Rowdy team can help."
What about those who are genuinely concerned by your change of aesthetic stance?
"If by widening my audiences’ width band I am seen to change my aesthetic stance then all I can say is, it is fine by me. The sense of betrayal will go away when my own film releases early next year. ‘Ram Leela’ will be extremely mainstream in temperament. But it will reflect only my aesthetics."
So will ‘Ram Leela’ have Ranveer or Kareena in a double role?
"Don’t angry me."