Sanjay Leela Bhansali is in Paris to direct the 1923 opera ballet Padmavati, written by Albert Rousselan, for the prestigious Theatre Du Chatelet and says it gives him the much-needed break from making movies.
"After Saawariya this is just the break from making movies that I needed. I feel any artiste needs to grow beyond the home turf," Bhansali told IANS on phone from Paris.
Very selected filmmakers from the world over have been invited by what's considered the world's most prestigious opera company. Among them are Hong Kong's Yimou Zhang of The House Of Flying Daggers. Woody Allen is also expected to direct an opera for Theatre du Chatelet.
"The opera has always been one of my favourite forms of musical expression. When the Theatre Du Chatelet offered me a chance to direct an opera long before the release of Saawariya I was in two minds. My entire focus was on the film. But the team from Paris was gentle and persuasive very soon I was hooked," said the director.
An unique honour for an Asian filmmaker and given to Bhansali because of the operatic language that he applied so effectively to Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's Devdas.
And why not? The Theatre du Chatelet offered him a chance to select his own story for the opera, though the all-French cast was pre-given by the repertory!
Bhansali has handpicked his team, which includes his old art-director Omung Kumar, costume designer Rajesh Pratap Singh and choreographer Tanushree Shankar, daughter-in-law of the legendary dancer Uday Shankar and wife of the late choreographer-dancer Anand Shankar.
A fan of Tanushree's father-in-law's dance ballet on celluloid "Kalpana", Bhansali in fact, flew to Kolkata for several meetings with Tanushree and was convinced she was the right person to bring alive the vibrant colours and passion of Rajasthan in the French idiom.
"The challenge," said Bhansali, "is to preserve the essence of Padmavati while making it connected with the European audience. It's so new and so challenging for me, I'm nervous and exhilarated."
There will be six shows of the opera interspersed over March.