Chit Chat

‘Black ‘ Talk

It had been a challenge, a journey against popular beliefs, an experiment once again, for the director who’s always dared to tread the untaken path. “Black”, he says, was his most fearless film, and now it has all paid off.

Q: Why did the trade pundits declare “Black” a non-starter?

A: They’re still living in the 1980’s and 90’s. They must change with the times. If you use the power of the pen to deprive cinema of the cyclic change that’s inevitable and imperative, then you’re doing society a great disservice. I’ve had audiences telling me, “Thank God there’re no songs and dances in ‘Black’.” That doesn’t mean they’re rejecting the formula. They’re just in pace with the changing requirements of every genre in cinema.

“Black” has created an impact in every social strata. I’ve never seen such love for my work before. They’re mobbing me! I feel my convictions as a filmmaker have paid off. The film wasn’t about finances, it was about feelings. I felt the entire industry came to the premiere to support me. They wanted the film to succeed as much as I did. I now believe the industry does want a good product to succeed.

Bachchan, Rani and I have been flooded with praise. It’s overwhelming. They’re calling Amitabh Bachchan god and Rani Mukherjee, the ultimate actress we have today. Little Ayesha Kapoor and Shernaz Patel too – it’s so reassuring that our hard work has paid off.

Q: No one thought a film about a deaf-and-blind girl would create such a roaring impact. Isn’t it?

A: Why do we undermine the audience’s intelligence? It started when the star system came on, when some filmmakers decided, “If we’ve a big star in the film we don’t need to work hard”. I think the star system brought in a kind of complacency.

Recently sleaziness also has crept in. The content had almost gone from our films. I decided to go completely by content in “Black”, against the genre of my last two films “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “Devdas’. Those films had worked.

I was worried about moving away. I never doubted the audience’s intelligence and aesthetic sense, but in “Black” the theme of the relationship between a teacher and his pupil was exceptionally “commercially non-viable”. No exposure, no flesh, no shaadi-baraat, no bhaiyya-bhabhi.

Every box office norm was broken and Amitabh Bachchan at this stage in his career has done his most unconventional role. At the peak of her career, Rani has done a de-glamorised role that requires her to go from teens to the age of 40. I think this kind of rule-breaking required a lot of guts. But I always believed god, mother and my audience were with me. I always knew the audience would go for a well-told story.

As a child I always liked to hear new stories. And the way our grandmother told them made all the difference.

The intelligence that Raj Kapoor, K. Asif, Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray or Ritwick Ghatak granted their audience was exemplary. I’d like to strive for the same. Why did we start questioning the audiences’ intelligence and aesthetic sense in the mid-1970s and 1980s?

Q: So is “Black” your least compromised work?

A: I wouldn’t say the songs and dances of “Hum Dil…” and “Devdas” made them compromised. I love songs and love shooting them too. I’m a dancer by temperament. Songs and dances belonged to those films. They weren’t part of “Black”.

This time I wanted to explore a dark area of my mind and bring my vision into the light. “Black” is my most fearless film. I never thought I was throwing my success away. I was renewing it with “Black”. I had so much faith in what I was doing. I couldn’t possibly make what the audiences want.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali

How would anyone know what one billion people want?

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