Sanjay Leela Bhansali crafted a debut for Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya (2007), though the film tanked badly. And recently, tales of a fallout between the guru and his disciple have been doing the rounds. Apparently, Ranbir was the first choice for Bhansali’s production, My Friend Pinto (MFP). But since he failed to respond, Prateik was roped in.
But the director refuses to add fuel to the fire. "Ranbir is my favourite bachcha (kid). He is a part of something that I created in Saawariya. He is very dear to me. So, whenever you make a film, you always feel, ‘let’s think of Ranbir in the role or what if Ranbir is roped in for the part?’ So, it’s not that we offered him the role seriously and he turned it down," he clarifies.
Ask Bhansali about the speculation regarding a tiff between the two, and he says with a laugh, "Nothing of that sort is true. Everything is fine," insisting that Prateik was more apt for the role in MFP.
"Plus, the movie has been made by a new director. And Raaghav and Prateik got along really well. We all have our favourite actors and want them to play all the possible roles," the Guzaarish (2010) director adds, admitting there was a time when he wanted Madhuri Dixit for all his films. "We think that some people are talented enough to handle everything. I always feel, ‘ye gaana Lataji gaayengi toh kitna accha hoga. (It would be great if Lata Mangeshkar could sing this song)’ You are obsessed with some actors or singers," he says.
Despite being considered among the best mainstream directors around, Bhansali has been constantly making headlines over alleged fights with colleagues from Karan Johar, Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor to Rani Mukerji and now, Ranbir. Ask if these accusations bother him and he retorts, "I feel I am their (the media’s) favourite. I believe in the lyrics, Kuch to log kahenge (People will say something), especially if you are part of the industry. As long as people are interested in you, you are alive. I would be upset if they weren’t interested in me."
Despite being in the industry for so many years, are you nervous about your first production, My Friend Pinto? You get nervous before any film’s release, even if it’s a friend’s film. When Mausam was releasing, I was worried, kaisa jayega, accha jayge ki nahi? (how will it go? Will it work or not?) My Friend Pinto is my first production, which I am not directing. And it’s a film with a first-time director. Plus, with this film, Prateik is playing the first independent lead role in his career.
Excerpts from interview:
What made you take up this project?
I found the script very interesting. I heard it for the first time in Paris, at a time when Raaghav was assisting on the French opera, Padmavati. At that time, he had just returned from assisting Mani Ratnam on Guru (2007). I felt very happy after listening to the script. That’s the kind of genre I would love to take up, but I don’t think I am capable enough.
Does it carry the stamp of Brand Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
The conviction of what the film talks about, the quality of the script, the way the songs have been picturised, the music and the performances — everything is fine. But if I have to carry my stamp as a director, then I would rather make it myself. There are several other filmmakers who are doing wonderful work. Ek naya touch hona chahiye (There needs to be a new touch). And in the process, I am keeping in touch with newer minds and fresh thoughts.
Now, you are producing several films, that won’t be directed by you. What’s the inspiration?
I am enjoying the process of producing because there are a lot of genres I wouldn’t otherwise be able to take up, films I might not have the aptitude for. Plus, it gives me a lot of room to work on my directorial ventures.
Prateik is apt for this. I saw him in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008), he had a small role but left a great impression. He’s been seen in other small parts, but this is his first big role. It’s a very difficult and unusual film, and to perform in this genre and bring the characters alive is not an easy task. But it came naturally to him. There’s not much ego in him right now. He hasn’t become full-fledged star yet. When all that comes in, you lose your innocence and start getting corrupt.
Kalki is a lovely girl and an effortless actor. Sometimes, I felt, she could have done a little more in the scene, if I had gone to the sets. I am used to another school of acting. But when I see the rushes, I feel, thank god, it’s absolutely perfect for today’s audience and it’s very delicate. Kalki also brought to an end some misunderstanding between Anurag (Kashyap) and me, without making it too obvious. She’s clarified a few things, which is nice.
So it’s true that Kalki helped sort out the issues between you and Anurag?
It was not as intense as the media made it out to be (laughs). Anurag had a few issues and he wrote some stuff that bothered me. And then, Kalki played a key role in clarifying a few things. But it’s not as if we were abusing each other or were upset with one another or wouldn’t look at each other’s face. Criticism is an important part of one’s evolution as a filmmaker. So, if a colleague or a fellow filmmaker criticises your work, maybe you need to pay heed. Possibly, that was an issue, but it should have been a personal call rather than a public letter. But criticism is very important.
How is Rowdy Rathore shaping up?
Rowdy Rathore is almost 60 per cent complete. It’s great fun and a very unusual film. I am looking forward to seeing my name on Rowdy Rathore’s poster. It’s a tribute to ’80s and ’90s action-packed cinema. I am happy with it.
We have heard you are reviving your shelved project, Bajirao Mastani, next.
(Silence) I will only decide and announce my film on or after Diwali. By then, I will be clear on exactly what I want to make. But I will start sometime around June next year.
Shirin Farhad Ki Nikal Padi, directed by your sister Bela Segal, is also on the cards.
It’s a comedy, which I have written with another friend. After writing, I realised that I also had a sense of humour to put on paper. It’s a lovely script. And I think Boman Irani and Farah Khan are going to rock in the film. We have roped in Jeet (composer Pritam’s former partner) for the music. We are going on floors in December on Boman’s birthday.
Recently, Salman reportedly said a few unpleasant things about Guzaarish. Were you upset?
I don’t get bothered about such things. There are some friends and relationships, which I respect a lot. And people claim (that he said certain things) but I haven’t heard him (Salman) say anything personally or to anyone I know, then why would I believe it? And even if he said anything, there are some relationships and people whom you grant enough love in your life to say, I don’t get bothered by such things. What I have got from the relationship (with Salman) is more than what I can imagine. So I have to be grateful for that.
Has your take on relationships within the industry taken a hit now?
You have to understand and respect relationships. They change every minute. And if you don’t accept changes within relationships and with people, then you are living in a fool’s paradise. Sometimes, you are friends and sometimes it doesn’t work. There’s no need to make an issue out of it is.
After X-Factor, are you going to take up TV again?
(Laughs) No, I don’t want to do TV. I can’t handle it. I enjoy singing. If someone sings, I will be happy. If Shreya (Ghoshal) comes to the office, I bombard her, saying, sing this song and that number. So, she doesn’t come close to me very often. I enjoyed the experience, but TV is very demanding.
Are you an intense and temperamental person in real life?
I don’t understand where such an image comes from. Every person I come across tells me, aapko X Factor jaise show aur karne chahiye (you should do more shows like X-Factor), we didn’t know you were like this. So I am like, do you think I am a monster? Or a temperamental mad man who misbehaves and starts shouting?
Why are you constantly dubbed as a brooding, serious director?
Sometimes, I feel such a perception comes from the kind of films I have made. By making films like Devdas (2002), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) or Black (2005), there’s a sense that I must be a dark, temperamental and intense person, sitting in a corner smoking cigarettes. Everyone wants a sad, self-destructive director in their times, so they’ve put the image on me, You are the sad, traumatised director and you have to live with it (laughs).
Are you also planning to dabble in a new genre, maybe comedy?
I am dying to make a comedy. Shirin Farhad is a starting point. In another year or so, I will make a comedy.
That’s why I think Shirin Farhad is very close to my heart. In real life, you can be funny and humorous, or you could have a wicked sense of humour, but to translate it on screen is very difficult. So, I feel making a comedy is as difficult as creating Mughal-e-Azam (1960).