A minute with: Sanjay Leela Bhansali on ‘Guzaarish’

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Three years after the much-hyped “Saawariya” failed to ignite the Bollywood box-office, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is wooing audiences with a film dealing with euthanasia.
“Guzaarish”, which opens in Indian cinemas on November 19, stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the lead.

The 47-year-old Bhansali spoke to Reuters about his unusual characters, the subject of euthanasia and life after “Saawariya”.
Q: Where did the germ for “Guzaarish” come from?
A: “If you ask me any germ of any film and where it came from, I won’t be able to tell you. It doesn’t come from any one incident. It rises in your mind… Today, I am ready to make ‘Guzaarish’ the most difficult film of my life. Also post ‘Saawariya’ not doing well, I did not want to be bitter in life. I did not want to be depressed. That want to live and be happy was the most after ‘Saawariya’ didn’t do well. As a piece of art, ‘Saawariya’ is the best thing I have done so far and it is the proudest moment of my life. So I was spared the trauma of depression. That want to live and love life is I guess the germ of ‘Guzaarish.’”
Q: You are dealing with the subject of euthanasia in “Guzaarish”?
A: “Euthanasia is a subject that has never been handled in Indian cinema before but it is a very important subject. Human suffering cannot be comprehended just like that, so if you can make an entertaining film with big stars and a big platform but still talk about it as a sensitive issue, then that is what we are doing. We are not propagating it, we are not taking sides.”
Q: The characters of your films seem almost exotic, as if they live in a strange, faraway land. Why is that?
A: “How many people have you met who have worked tirelessly for 14 years to keep the man they love alive? You will not find such people every day. They are rare characters and my characters have always been that way. My characters are a little off, a little strange. They have a certain attitude to love and life and they should be treated that way. There are so many layers to these characters that you have to analyse to participate in the film.”
Q: Were you tempted to be bitter after “Saawariya” didn’t do well?
A: “Who wouldn’t be depressed? I have great family, friends who stood by me. My spirit is so alive. Even though people think I am a very depressing filmmaker, temperamental and intense, I am not all that. We worked so hard on that film, I created the moons and stars in that film. So even when it didn’t work, I didn’t question myself as a filmmaker. Maybe the narrative that I chose and thought the audience was evolved enough to see didn’t reach out to the people, or perhaps it wasn’t the right time to release it, whatever the reasons.”
Q: Did you at any point question your audiences?
A: “No, never. The audience is never wrong. Never wrong. If ‘Khamoshi’ hasn’t worked as a film, there is something wrong with it and if ‘Devdas’ and ‘Hum Dil…’ have worked, they must be good. They (audiences) have no bias, they just want to see a good film, no matter who you are. I have so much faith in them and that is why I made ‘Guzaarish’ which is about a quadriplegic and magic, after making ‘Saawariya’. Today they don’t watch a run-of-the-mill film, all those stories have now gone to television.”
Q: Were you tempted to change your style of filmmaking after ‘Saawariya’?
A: “No, I am too obstinate. I make what I have to make from the heart.
I don’t make a proposal or sell a project. Yes, it should be economically viable but nobody can tell me how to make a film. Why should I waste three years of my life on a dishonest film?”
Q: Do you think releasing “Saawariya” at a different time may have worked?
A: “Absolutely… A piece like ‘Saawariya’ doesn’t happen again. I will never be able to make it again. I am constantly assessing my shortcomings, and maybe there are some flaws in the film, but that list is so private, I will only write it when I retire 25 years from now.
Q: Are you planning to retire?
A: “25 years later dear. Then I shall chill. That is when I will have my romance with life.”
Q: Isn’t that what you are doing with your films?
A: “Films are my way of existing. I live my life through my characters. They become a part of what I want to say. If you remove my films, I don’t exist. Sometimes I barely see myself in the mirror.
Because I say so little in life, I say so much more in my movies. If I say something everyday, maybe I won’t express myself that intensely in my films.”
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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