Home > Bollywood, feminism, indian, rw, sexual harrasment, showbiz misogyny > On Sanjay Leela Bhansali

On Sanjay Leela Bhansali


Yup, now that I’m in a ‘cleaning house’ frenzy….this is what I’d penned down after watching Saawariya.

So this guy’s an artist, no doubt. He’s just the opposite of Michelangelo – that Italian’s statues looked like they were itching to come to life, Bhansali’s actors look like they’re trying their best to become pictures or sculptures. No, this isn’t criticism, merely an observation. Bhansali tries so hard to create those moments that remain frozen to your mind, he literally freezes the pictures and tries to achieve ‘permanent perfection’. Even when his heroines run across sets dramatically, you see the expanse behind them – they’re PART of the background, and are tiny parts of the whole world around them. They’re not active, driving characters who do stuff, but women to whom things always happen. To act in a Bhansali film a woman need to be able to decrease your heart rate significantly (like a Healer), remove extraneous movements & fidgets and any indication of testosterone or adrenalin. Except for the men, of course – they’re practically crawling with tics, if such ugly things ever existed in the Bhansali world.

In every movie he’s ever made – Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chuke, Devdas, Black and now Saawariya – Bhansali has one moment of pure passion where the male protagonist physically overpowers and manhandles the heroine. Do you remember Ajay Devgun shaking a then-thin and terrified looking Aishwariya? Do you remember an old, aging alcoholic Amitabh Bachchan shaking and physically intimidating the deaf, dumb, blind kid in Black?

Driven by lust, frustration, anger and just immense love, the usually suave-and-gentlemanly, even wimpy, men twist their ladies’ arms, pull their women’s hair, or otherwise cause them to wince and cry out in pain. While the women show their incredible passion via unendurable patience, the men only seem to be able to express emotion through physical power-shows that border, and often cross, definitions of abuse. Put this information together with Bhansali’s immense closeness to his mother (he’s taken her name, which is unusual in his generation and in India). What does this mean – you figure out!

This may be the most curiously deep insight that the still-single, soft-spoken, arrogant director has provided into himself.

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