A take on one of India's hotshot filmmakers ( Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

 A take on one of India's hotshot filmmakers ( Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

Introduction and Early Life

When we think about the Great Filmmakers this land has produced, we think of names such as Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Satyajeet Ray and V Shantaram.  While V Shantaram’s cinema was more about Social Reforms and how we can affect society through cinema, Guru Dutt’s cinema was more about Personal suffering and the journey of an individual through the test of time.

One such director whose film are centered around the journey of an individual is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Born in the chawls of Byculla, Sanjay didn’t have a very comfortable childhood. His father was a film producer, but lost tons of money due to the failure of his films. His father owed people huge sums of money and the debt made Bhansali family’s life miserable.

Whenever I watch a Bhansali Films, I feel the rush of emotions in my body. The opulence and the grandeur, along with the drama, the pure human emotions, the love, the fear, the affection, the sensitivity, the desire overwhelms me. When asked about where his quest for beauty comes from, Bhansali said “From the lack of beauty in my life”.  Deprevation is very important for an artist and we can see it clearly in Sanjay’s cinema. His love for huge sets comes from the love he has for Mughal e Azam. When Bhansali watched Mughal e Azam as a child, he found the beauty he was searching for in Cinema. 

After graduating from FTII, Pune Bhansali started working under Vidhu Vinod Chopra as an Assistant Director. Sanjay assisted Vidhu on Parinda. Looking at the potential and dedication of Bhansali, he asked Bhansali to work with him on his upcoming projects 1942 – A Love Story and Kareeb.

Bhansali’s Films which created a huge impact on me

After working on Kareeb under Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Bhansali had gained enough experience to have his own opinions on filmmaking. Sometimes opinions don’t match and that’s what happened between Vidhu and Sanjay. Sanjay decided to start directing films. He made his directorial debut with Khamoshi – The Musical released in the year 1996. As he worked as an AD with Vidhu, Sanjay managed to create a network with the stars at that time. Sanjay managed to sign huge stars of the 90s Salman Khan, Manisha Koirala and Nana Patekar for his film. 

The film generated good buzz around it as it starred big stars, but the film turned out to be commercial disaster. The film however received critical acclaim and was said to be one of the best musicals ever made in Hindi Cinema. The film was about the daughter of a deaf – mute couple and the ups and downs in her romantic relationships. The film received great reviews for its Direction, Acting and Music. In 1996 Filmfare awards, Sanjay Leela Bhansali received Filmfare award for Best Film (critics). 

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali rose to prominence with his second film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam released in 1999. The film was made on a budget of 16 crores generated a net revenue of more than 51 crores. The film is still counted as one of biggest hits of Hindi Cinema, when we compare the Return on Investments. After Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Bhansali made the presence felt as a director who makes films with humongous sets and the attention to detail. The film is a visual delight, the music, the set design, the camera movement, the lighting was something which was never seen before in Hindi Cinema. 

Ismail Darbar, who composed the music of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in one of his interviews said that “Sanjay has a great sense of Hindustani music. It was a delight working with him.”


The film is a Visual Spectacle, the way Bhansali has used Red as a color for passion and love is worth appreciating. The choreography and music are one of the best in the history of Hindi Cinema. My personal favorite is Dola Re Dola. The beautiful song sung by Shreya Ghoshal and Kavita Krishnamurthi and Choreographed by Saorj Khan has one of the most complex dance sequences ever. The fusion of Kathak and Bharatanatyam performed brilliantly by Madhuri and Ashwariya is a visual delight. The music of the film is beautiful, the music has a strong classical base to it, unlike Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam which is more mainstream in its approach.

The film showcases Bhansali’s passion for the grandeur of this country. The work gone into the research of the Lifestyle of Kothas, the Lifestyle near Banaras Ghats the, Lifestyle in the Havelis of Calcutta, The Steam Engines is worth noticing. Talking about Sharukh Khan portraying the role of Dev which was once portrayed by great Dilip Kumar, Bhansali said “If Shahrukh would have denied to do Devdas, I wouldn’t have made the film. I could see Devdas in Sharukh. I felt where Madhuri’s era ends, Ash’s era starts, so the collation of great actresses made me excited”.


Using colors as a medium to evoke certain emotions is a signature of Bhansali’s cinema. As the title suggests, Bhansali used Black shades to portray the darkness in the life of a blind person. Bhansali uses white to show the brightness missing in the life of the blind people. 

Black throughout its runtime doesn’t feel preachy at all. The film is meant to tell a story about a deaf blind girl and a teacher and how they live their life. 

Amitabh Bachan just before the release of Black said that this movie will take Indian Cinema to new standards.  On a podcast with Neha Dhupia, Ranbir Kapoor who worked as an AD on Black described Bhansali as a hard task master who could do anything, sometimes even get violent with his crew to get that perfect shot. Ranbir said everything he knows and understands about movies is because of Bhansali, A day on the set of a Bhansali film is like a lecture on cinema.

Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ramleela  

I would like to call it a Gujarati Romeo and Juliet. This was Bhansali’s first collaboration with Ranveer and Deepika. Also, this was the first film of Bhansali where he solely directed the music of the film. The film is like a painting, showing the shades of Red, Blue and Green which depict the colorful life around the town.

 The film is set in Gujarat where two castes, the Rajadis and the Saneras are involved in a centuries old conflict. The film is extremely entertaining, Bhansali holds the attention of the audience when the Gujarati folk music is played in the background and the title appears on the screen and manages to hold the attention throughout its runtime. I loved the way colors were used in the costumes of the characters, the relationship between both communities, how the modern generation is involved in a centuries old conflict and the transition of a romantic relationship between the leads is interesting. 

The film’s title gave rise to multiple controversies. The name was changed from Ramleela to Goliyon ki Raasleela Ramleela. The film’s portrayal of both castes also raised questions amongst the people of Gujarat.

Bajirao Mastani

This is by far my most favorite Bhansali film. The attention to detail, the beauty of Maratha Empire, gorgeous costumes, splendid set design, fantastic camera work, outstanding performances and last but not the least, absolute brilliance of Bhansali’s direction makes Bajirao Mastani a film that will be remembered for centuries. For me, apart from the technical aspects, the most important thing is I shouldn’t get bored for even a minute, Bajirao Mastani successfully grabs my attention throughout its runtime. Even though the film was promoted as a romantic film set in an era of wars and conflicts, it feels more like a Family Drama and the conflicts that arise as a result of a romantic relationship between Peshwa Bajirao and Mastani. 

The character design grabbed my attention throughout. The music, the background score creates a kind of mystery and a sense of excitement in the mind. You are a part of Bhansali’s world, Bhansali throws you in between the drama right from the very first scene when new Peshwa is to elected. The cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee is extraordinary. The long shots, multiple one take scenes between Bajirao and Kashi Bai, the confrontational scenes are all shot beautifully.

The film is a masterclass in acting for budding actors. The technicalities like camera movement, sound design and editing are all important, no doubt but they are all used with respect to the performance of the actors.  Priyanka is fantastic as Kashi Bai. Kashi Bai is my favorite character in the film. Vulnerability, ability to listen and react, getting into the skin of the character, Priyanka absolutely nails it. Of course, Ranveer is great as Bajirao, he kills it with the accent and mesmerizes with his expressions. Deepika is good as Mastani and justifies her character. 


Originally titled as Padmavati, the film was caught up with controversies right from the start. Freedom of expression is absolute and filmmaking is an art, art deserves its freedom. 

Like I said before, Bajirao Mastani is like a masterclass in acting, Padmavat is a masterclass in set design and cinematography. Cinematography has been done by Sudeep Chaterjee(Bajirao Mastani), Sudeep gets his shots right. The long take shots between Allaudin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) and Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) gives you goosebumps. They kingdom of Chittor is beautifully designed. 

Even though the film was caught up in controversies, it turned out to be a huge success at the Box Office.

Special mention to the supporting characters, Malik Kafur played by Jim Sarbh and Mehrunissa played by Aditi Roy Hayadri. The supporting characters kind of carry this film, they are as interesting as the main characters.

The Bhansali Elements

Every filmmaker has his/her trademark style of filmmaking. Bhansali has his own style. He uses certain elements that actually play a part in the film and are recurring patterns across his films.

1. Water Element 

         Talk about the scene where Mastani tells Bajirao that she is pregnant or the scene of Bajirao’s death or the scene where Bajirao expresses his love for Mastani, it all involves water as a part which is driving the scene. The death of Ram and Leela, the climax scene in black between Michelle and Debraj, the whole sequence of Banaras ghat in Devdas, all the scenes involve water as a supporting element in the film. 

2. Fire Element

        Paaro burns the letter when Dev urges her to forget their relationship. Kaashi bai burns the curtain of Sheesh Mahal when she sees Bajirao and Mastani together. There are multiple sequences across every Bhansali film which involves fire as a recurring element in the story.


Bhansali is a director I feel who has the potential to take Indian cinema to great heights. He revolutionized the main stream films in India and his kind of filmmaking is appreciated across the world.

  By Gaurav Chawla



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