On a new terrain

Seasoned Director

Passionate Lot : Sanjay Leela Bhansali with Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan. In Indian cinema, very few filmmakers have composed music for their own films. Although he had composed one song (Thode badmaash ho tum) for Saawariya, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has now composed the entire soundtrack of Guzaarish. What made him take the step? “I just felt from deep inside that I should do the music this time,” he smiles, almost dismissively.

“If I do feel that kind of urge again in a future film, I might compose again. I am a guy who loves music, but I am not going to keep composing for every film of mine!” he says decisively, refusing to gratify my curiosity about whether compositions had came to him for situations in every one of his earlier films. “Look, I have not learnt music. I took credit for thode badmaash ho tum because it was my creation!” he stresses. “I cannot rob anyone of due credit, and that includes me!”

The music of Guzaarish, except for the title-song whose mukhda was made in 2003 when the subject of this film was not even conceived, has been made in a very unorthodox way. “When I first started looking at this story, I began coming up with several tunes that could be right. It’s another matter that we finally used only my 2003 tune and made the rest afresh!” he says candidly.

Fascinatingly, Bhansali even tells you that most songs were composed, written, altered, rejected and finalised on the shooting set itself. Most others were written in his office, while the screenplay was being written as well. “My music has taken birth alongside the story.

Shail Hada, my music assistant who had sung the title-song of Saawariya, was the best thing because through his seasoned vocals I could know exactly how the song would sound,” he says.

Many of the songs were recorded live as the film is shot in Sync Sound. “Shail would be singing the song and Hrithik Roshan would be enacting it right there, as in the days when recording studios did not exist. We recorded separate versions for the album.”

The orchestration, programming and mixing also followed a trial and error process for months. An eclectic bunch of playback singers came in, from Shail and new voices like Vibhavari, Harshdeep and Francois to the seasoned KK, Sunidhi Chauhan and Kunal Ganjawala. But his own Devdas discovery, Shreya Ghoshal, is missing.

“My songs have all come from the heart, nothing is calculated. Shreya has reached a pinnacle and her not singing in my film where no song needed her will not make a difference. I was only the zariya for her destiny,” says Bhansali, who has dedicated the album to his idols Lata Mangeshkar and late composer Jaidev, who with many others, has enriched his life since he came to be aware of things.

The film’s title, Guzaarish (plea or request) is clearly about euthanasia, right? “Yes,” he says. “But my story only spotlights the issue, which I feel very strongly about personally, in a gentle way. I know that answers cannot come fast, but we have to think about such issues.”

He is happy about choosing a subject that has never been dealt with in a mainstream film before in Hindi cinema. “But I have tackled the film with a smile and a light mood. I have made the film entertaining. In fact Guzaarish is my brightest and lightest film.”

Bhansali worked on the script for 18 months and says, “My film is mainstream in terms of budgets, cast and audience and I had to make sure that I did not hurt anyone but evoked a debate.” He points out that without star-clout, such themes will not make any impact on the audience or society. “And at least till my screenplay reaches the interval point, I do not start casting my actors.”

In this case, he knew that Hrithik was ideal to play the central character and no one else. “We need good actors and good actors need roles like this. Just as Amitabh Bachchan is the greatest actor we have had, and he was a must for Black. With such great actors, when you throw challenges at them, they throw a challenge back to you as a filmmaker.” Of course, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, doing her third film with him, is very special too.

So what is his criteria for choosing subjects? “It should make an impression on my soul and touch my heart. And yes, great cinema need not be about changing society, because cinema is about entertainment.

At the same time, catharsis of our emotions is also necessary. Honest, courageous and fearless cinema like Bandini is not made today using the audiences’ taste as an excuse. But why would they watch a bad movie and not watch a good one? When you make something substandard, you demean the intelligence of people.”

Bhansali wants the audience to take away something from the movie, he adds, “Guzaarish makes you think about how these strong people who, instead of turning bitter, evil or negative, walk ahead and make their lives beautiful.”

And what about his temper tantrums on the sets? “I passionately live every moment from conception to release of the film. I do not get angry now — it’s pointless because not everyone can share that passion for excellence.”  

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