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'What's There To Celebrate?' Bhansali@60

February 24, 2024 12:22 IST

'I feel more fulfilled and complete today than I did when I was 40.'

IMAGE: Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali spotted at his office in Juhu, north west Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

My dear friend Sanjay Bhansali turns 60 quietly today, February 24, 2024. No celebrations are planned.

"What is there to celebrate?

"During childhood my sister and I had no birthday parties.

"We would take a packet of sweets to school and distribute it to our class-mates. That was it.

"We never had birthday parties. Nor were we allowed to go to parties.

"Now it has become a habit to be on my own on my birthday. And I am a very happy that way.

"On my 50th birthday my sister Bela arranged a surprise party.

"Everyone who mattered was there, except Lataji. She called to wish me and gave away the 'surprise party' that was planned for me. I was deeply moved."

As for this birthday, "I am just happy that my mother is in good health. Spending time with her is the best possible gift for me. And I wish you were here. You are the only friend I have."

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji as Michelle McNally in Black.

There is a vast difference between what he was on his 50th birthday and what he is now at 60. He no longer feels the need to prove that he is not the eccentric recluse that he is known to be.

Stars he was working in would drop in unannounced whenever they wished, stay over for a meal, chatter to glory.

The actors Sanjay works with are now entertained on the sets only.

On the day after Black had released I was with him at his home. The boxoffice reports were encouraging. Rani Mukerji dropped in. She was jubilant and not the least embarrassed to show it. She got on top of a table and danced.

Aditya Pancholi who had also dropped in to congratulate Sanjay was taken aback. Pancholi is not easy to shock.

Two years later I was again with Sanjay on the day after the release of Saawariya. There was not single person at his home. It was like a house in mourning. That is how Guru Dutt's home must have been on the day after the release of Kagaz Ke Phool.

That is when Sanjay became aware of the futility of work-related friendships: they begin and end on the sets. Since then, birthdays and other occasions have become insulated for Sanjay.

IMAGE: Ranbir Kapoor as Ranbir Raj Malhotra and Sonam Kapoor as Sakina Khan in Saawariya.

Saawariya this day remains Sanjay's own favourite film.

"A Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or a Devdas can be made again. But Saawariya can never be made again.

"It's my rarest work in terms of treatment.

"It had beautiful performances and visuals.

"I tried to put a stage-play on film.

"Of course at the end of the day the audience decides what it likes.

"But in this case the audience was conditioned not to like Saawariya."

IMAGE: Shah Rukh Khan as Devdas Mukherjee and Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi in Devdas.

Why are pain and suffering such an integral part of Bhansali's universe?

"I feel suffering and pain are an important part of every human being's life. And I don't just address the question of pain, I also how my heroes overcoming that pain.

"In Devdas the protagonist's life ended in tragedy. But he remained consumed by love and said yes to the pain that accompanied his passion for love.

"Rani in Black, Ajay Devgn in Hum...Dil De Chuke Sanam or Hrithik Roshan in Guzaarish overcome their suffering and come to terms with it."

IMAGE: Deepika Padukone as Padmavati and Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Singh in Padmaavat.

Film-making is Sanjay's only passion.

"Making movies is all I think about.

"Cinema is all I live for.

"After the hard work that I put in I feel blessed when it's appreciated.

"In so many ways I felt blessed when we took Devdas to Cannes. In many ways it familiarised the Western world to the Bollywood formula.

"Then came the opera Padmavati which I did in Paris. It was one of my most glorious moments as an artiste.

"All this is highly motivating for me.

"The disapproval is also important to me.

"Love, hate, contempt, affection... It all adds up to make a complete life.

"Every reaction is important to me.

"There is a certain style I have of putting the story across.

"Many like it, others don't."

Sanjay doesn't feel the weight of his years.

"I feel I am at that stage of my life when all my hard work, all the knowledge and experiences that I've gathered over the years have come to fruition.

"I feel more fulfilled and complete today than I did when I was 40."

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/