'This film will be called Shah Rukh's Devdas'
Smita Jayakar on being a tragic lover's mother
Smita Jayakar admits to sharing a special bond with her director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. "We can look at each other and know exactly what the other is thinking, and we can burst out laughing."
Unlike most mothers on screen, Smita enjoys playing a glamorous avatar.
"I remember Sanjay had to continuously assuage my nerves while dubbing [for Devdas]. I kept cribbing I paled in comparison with Kiron Kher's [who plays Aishwarya Rai's mother] fabulous performance in our confrontation scene. Sanjay kept telling me I looked beautiful in that scene." Devdas, for her, will always be special. Pratiksha Arora finds out why:
I worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. When we started filming Devdas, the pressure was immense. This was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, magnified hundredfold. There were so many mishaps that it was very stressful exercise for Sanjay.
Fortunately for me, it has not affected my relationship with him.
The ladies of the family have very strong roles in Devdas as compared to the men. Sanjay asked me to choose either Kiron's role or mine, but he said I should play Shah Rukh Khan's mother --- I have done Kiron's role before. It is a very bechari [hopeless] role, lots of soulful crying.
In the film, my son Devdas is the apple of my eye. My character wants to prevent him from marrying Paro, who is a nautch girl's daughter. Even today, one would not allow one's son to marry a courtesan's daughter. That is how Sanjay explained the premise of this film to me. And that is why she breaks up the two lovers.
There is a lovely scene when the mother slaps her son. She shouts at him and asks him to leave the house, saying, 'Nobody will understand you here. Just leave and go!' and she throws him out of the house. The other scene that I really enjoyed was a confrontation between Kiron and me where we make Paro dance and humiliate her.
The look of this film is different from that of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. It is richer, more opulent. Visually, my character has a completely different look in the first half of the film. In the second half, I am shorn of all my finery, no red tikka on my forehead and I am shown dressed in a white sari as a widow.
Devdas will be a reference point for films to come. It will be spoken about --- to make a film like this takes courage very few can show. The result will be there for everyone to see on the big screen.
I did wonder whether Sanjay would be able to pull making a Devdas. But in my opinion, of all the classics ever made, this would be the most perfect, in the league of Bandini or Madhumati and Mughal-e-Azam.
You know, I asked Sanjay why he was driving himself crazy with the nitty-gritties. He said, "Smita, somebody has to make perfect film. That is why I am doing it!"
Sanjay loves to explain his scenes in English. All the emotion, the expression, shows through. He will have tears in his eyes when he explains a sad scene. He even modulates his voice, and tells you how you could do it.
Despite all the pressures, I have never seen Sanjay throw a tantrum. There is never a frown on his face --- no matter what trouble he is undergoing.
I have worked with Shah Rukh before in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Pardes. He is cool and a thorough professional. He is really the heart and soul of this film. He gave it the energy that makes you wonder where it came from, considering he smokes like a chimney all the time.
When I first heard Sanjay was casting Shah Rukh as Devdas, I wondered whether Ajay Devgan would be a better choice. I even mentioned it to him. He said, "Ajay would have been a clichιd choice because he looks the part so well."
Now that I have worked with Shah Rukh, I can say this --- this will be called Shah Rukh's Devdas. He is that good in the film.
ALSO READ: The Devdas Special