Last year, when the posters of Padmaavat had just released, Karan Johar shared a truth that many filmmakers might feel but not openly express… “I am jealous. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of the most visually amazing filmmakers and he is on top of his game. The way he paints a visual, it is amazing and no one else can do it. I am envious. He is brilliant and I aspire to be there. It motivates me to see his work,” Karan had shared.
Whatever the criticism that comes his way – and he does get a lot of it! – Bhansali is one of the most sought-after filmmakers today. Ranveer Singh regards him as one of the greatest filmmakers of Hindi cinema of all time. “His form and flamboyance are unique to him and there are some things that only he can do.” Even his harshest critics have to admit that his films may be “no history or sociology, but pure Sanjay Leela Bhansali”! (Thank you, Shekhar Gupta).
The filmmaker who started off as an AD to Vidhu Vinod Chopra is today the Maharajah of the Mega Musical. Here’s a quick recap of his films which exude his love for grand cinema and great music…
Khamoshi – The Musical (1996)
He made his directorial debut with the commercially unsuccessful yet critically acclaimed narration of a daughter's struggle to communicate with her deaf-mute parents. The film won the Critics Award for Best film at Filmfare. Starring Manisha Koirala, Salman Khan, the film is hailed as perhaps Bhansali’s best – sensitive, heart-wrenching and devoid of frills.
Hum along… "Bahon Ke Darmiyan," "Aankhon Mein Kya," "Aaj Main Upar"
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)
Adopted from Maitreyi Devi's Bengali novel Na Hanyate, it featured Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan in a love triangle. A resounding hit, it was with this film that Bhansali stamped his mark as an artist with a penchant for visual splendour, emotional content and the gift for recreating celebration and festivity. A critical success as well, it won several awards including four National Awards and nine Filmfare Awards.
Hum along… "Chand Chupa Badal Mein," "Nimbooda," "Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan," "Jhonka Hawa Ka," "Dholi Taro Dhol Baje," "Tadap Tadap," "Kaipoche," "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam"
This romantic drama based on the 1917 Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel, followed the ruin of Devdas, a wealthy law graduate in the early 1900s, who returns from his studies in London to marry his childhood sweetheart, Paro. The rejection of his marriage by his own family marks his descent into alcohol, his seeking refuge with a prostitute, Chandramukhi, and his ultimate death. Screened at 2002 Cannes Film Festival, it won the Filmfare Award for Best Film, five National Awards, and a nomination for the Best Foreign Film at British Academy of Film & Television Awards (BAFTA).
Hum along… "Silsila Ye Chahat Ka," "Maar Daala," "Bairi Piya," "Kaahe Chhed," "Chalak Chalak," "Morey Piya," "Dola Re Dola"
Starring Rani Mukerji and Amitabh Bachchan, it revolved around a deafblind girl, and her relationship with her teacher who develops Alzheimer's later in life. The film drew inspiration from Helen Keller's life and struggle. A commercial success, it also became the highest-grossing 2005 Indian film overseas. The film was screened at the Casablanca Film Festival, won the Filmfare Best Film award, was selected by Time Magazine (Europe) as one of the 10 Best Movies of the Year 2005 globally, premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, won Amitabh Bachchan his second National Film Award for Best Actor, and received multiple Best Director and Best Film Awards.
Hum along… "Haan maine chookar dekha hain"
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)
This tragic romance opened to positive reviews and strong box office collections, for which Bhansali received several awards and nominations. Loosely based on the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the plot revolved around Ram and Leela, who belong to two warring factions, but fall in love with each other against all odds. It was hailed for the electrifying chemistry between its lead actors, strong dramatic content, scintillating musical score, violent streak in the narrative and Bhansali's execution of the material.
Hum along… "Ang Laga De," "Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun," "Laal Ishq," "Lahu Munh Lag Gaya," "Nagada Sang Dhol," "Ram Chahe Leela," "Tattad Tattad"
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
An epic historical romance film, it was based on the Marathi novel Raau and narrated the story of the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I (1700-1740 AD) and his second wife Mastani. The film won praise for its direction, various technical achievements, performances, scale, grandeur, and attention to detail. It grossed over ₹356 crores at the box office, becoming a major commercial success and one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time. It also won seven National Film Awards, including Best Direction.
Hum along… "Deewani Mastani," "Aayat," "Malhari," "Pinga," "Gajanana"
This epic period drama loosely based on the poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, portrayed the tale of Rani Padmavati, the Rajput queen renowned for her beauty. A tale of valour and the choice of death over the dishonour of being claimed by the invading Sultan Alauddin Khilji, the film was also the most expensive Hindi film ever made. Its release, after numerous controversies, has seen the historical blaze a trail of success at the box office. The film was praised for its visuals and performance but drew criticism for its execution, length and alleged adherence to regressive patriarchal mores.
Hum along… “Ghoomar,” “Ek Dil Ek Jaan,” “Khalibali,” “Binte Dil”