By Indira Hirway*
If a film opens with a romantic duet song “ye pahela pahela pyaar hai” with a sweet and romantic background music with Mohandas Gandhi and Kasturba dancing on the sea shore of Porbandar, how will you find it? If Kasturba is dressed boldly and Mohandas is dressed in a typically Sorathi dress (with a pagadi and all that), jumping and dancing, will you accept it at all? Even if this song is a dream sequence, I am sure you will revolt against it! And on top of all this, if you are told that this movie is based on My Experiments with Truth, won’t you like to file a suit right away against the film director and his team?
But this is exactly Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been doing film after film. And that is why I put this question in public domain: How can we stop Bhansali from killing classics after classics of our literature?
Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyay in his novel Devdas did not make Paro and Chandramukhi meet, because he wanted to make the relationship subtle and beautiful. But Bhansali’s Paro – a middle class Bangali woman – dances with Chandramukhi, a prostitute! This is a distortion no Sharadbabu lover can tolerate.
Similarly, the classic Bengali novel Na Hanyate by Maitreyi Devi is mercilessly killed by Bhansali in his film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The beauty of the novel in the literature is that, this painful love story has been written separately by Maitreyi Devi as well as by the lover of her young days, Mircea Eliade, who later became a great philosopher and thinker in the western world.
Mircea wrote it when he was young and was extremely hurt because of the failure of the love (Maitreyi Devi had requested that it should be published as novel in English only after her death); while Maitreyi Devi wrote it when she read Mircea’s novel at the time she was already a grandmother living with her full family. This is indeed a unique incident in the history of literature anywhere in the world.
When the two lovers meet when they had long past their young age, the same intensity of love was experienced. But they did not live together and parted ways. Sanjay Leela Bhansali took only the first part, and distorted the beautiful and unique love story of the literature mercilessly!
Again, the same happened with the unique Gujarati classical novel Saraswatichandra. This famous novel is written by Givardhanram Tripathi has a story set in the 19th century Gujarat. It is written in three volumes and it depicts beautifully the life in Gujarat during the 19th Century – along with the delicate love story. Saraswatichnadra and Kumud do not marry in the end – and Kumud decides to renounce the world. The reason for this decision and the tragic end are depicted extremely beautifully by Gavardhanram Tripathi.
But this story is beyond the understanding of the thick-headed Bhansali. He arranges their marriage, and also fixes up other marriages in the family.
I had no courage to see Bajirao Mastani, the famous historical story in Marathi. The beauty of this story is how the two independent beautiful women Mastani and Bajirao’s wife led their life. But No! This is beyond the understanding if the thick-headed Bhansali! He made them dance together!
The main problem with Bhansali is that he loves glamour… large and beautiful sets, people moving in glamorous dresses and ornaments! Even Paro, whose poverty was one of the reasons why Devdas’s father did not accept her as bahoo, lives in a large palace. Bhansali has catchy songs and very rich and prosperous environment; and intensive acting of actors who have perhaps nothing to do with our literature! Bhansali makes his characters look sensuous, sometimes to the point of vulgarity.
Poor Bollywood! Half-educated if not ignorant. Except for a few good actors, directors and others, most actors are poorly educated and indifferent to such distortions – they are happy as long as they earn money and sometimes awards. The less educated actors and actresses perhaps cannot be blamed because they have nothing to do with “classics” in literature. Taken in by large sets, songs, intensive overacting and glamour, Bollywood naturally presents awards even to Bhansali.
Now he has taken Padmavati in his hand. The story of Padmavati and Allauddin Khilji (who is not a Mughal as is claimed by Bhansali) is somewhat historical and somewhat mythological, and is woven with the mindset of Indians, particularly Rajputs, as she was a Rajput Rani who fought for the honour of Rajputs and jumped into fire to save her own honour. But Bhansali wants to have love scenes between Padmavati and Allauddin Khilaji as a dream sequence. This really tests people’s patience.
I wish there was a law that punished such killers of our classics. Or there were tuition classes for our half-educated actors. Otherwise we just have to pray that people like Bhansali are stopped, if not by anything, by the common sense of cine-goers! Violence is absolutely not acceptable; but protest should be welcome.
*Professor of economics, director, Centre for Development Alternatives (CFDA), Ahmedabad