For the first time, Sanjay Leela Bhansali talks about the cast of his new film Saawariya with Subhash K Jha..Q: You turned a year older on 24 Feb.
A: I got the best possible gift for my birthday when Black won all the major Filmfare awards in both the Critics' and popular categories. What more could I hope for? Such recognition rejuvenates a filmmaker. You remain young forever if you work with young people. In Saawariya no one in the crew is beyond 25. Their enthusiasm sparkle and gusto are contagious.Q: The casting of your new film has been under serious speculation for months now? Care to finally tell us about it?
A: My film's cast is Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. Media persons wrote about it, not waiting for me to announce it. It HAD to be Ranbir and Sonam for Saawariya. After Black where I worked with established stars I reached a point where I needed to go beyond the stars, to re-discover my own innocence with the help of new talent.
Saawariya is about innocent love. I needed to be adventurous with my cast. When I worked with Amitji in Black I was fulfilling a dream. No director of our times would feel complete without working with him.
Having experienced that high, I needed the challenge of moulding talent, shaping new actors into my own vision. Ranbir and Sonam have given me that liberty.Q: This is the first time you're working with absolutely new talent.
A: It's important to move away from expectations—your own and others. Black broke many rules. After Devdas people said it was hara-kiri for me to make a dark film. But it was a spontaneous decision. Saawariya is again straight from the heart. And Sonam and Ranbir emerged from a completely natural instinct to cast the right faces for the two leads.Q: How did you actually zero in on Ranbir and Sonam?
A: The kids came to assist me. Ranbir joined me two years ago on Black when he just returned from abroad. A little later Anil Kapoor called to say his daughter is back in India and wants to work only with me. The first thing I noticed about them was that they were complete star-material.
I told them they were the kind of faces I'd like to put before the camera. At that time Ranbir and Sonam said they weren't sure. Later they confessed they had come with the primary intention of being noticed and cast by me. It's a confession that melted my heart. Q: What do you think of their potential as actors?
A: I wouldn't have cast them for merely being star-children. Both have that special aura about them. And they've been preparing for the camera before coming to me. In the last eight months I've been training them more intensively and fine-tuning what they don't know.
I'm enjoying this process of moulding new clay. They're both tremendous talents. Ranbir's talent comes from four generations of the Kapoors. Sonam has inherited her dedication from her father. And both have star quality. They're absolutely uncorrupted and mouldable. Q: Do you think being star-children is an advantage?
A: It does give them access to important filmmakers. And secretly they nurture the dream of following in their parents' footsteps. So they start following their dreams from childhood. Ranbir and Sonam have never been exposed to the undesirable side of film world.
Like most star-kids, they're very well brought-up children. They've had the best of education, upbringing….Now they'll face the serious disadvantage of being compared with their parents who were superstars in their own right.Q: After working with huge stars how does it feel to work with newcomers?
A: I feel I've gone back to my formative years as a filmmaker. It's like watching lives being shaped. Full credit to Ranbir and Sonam's parents for completely entrusting me with their children's talents. I find the kids extremely clued-in. They've sat with while I wrote the script. They know what to do and how to do it. It's great fun working with Ranbir and Sonam.Q: And they've just one film to focus on…
A: Why should that be such a big virtue over here? Abroad every star works on one project at a time. I hope these kids continue to work on one film at a time. As I watch them evolve as actors I'm so proud and happy with the journey they've made in eight months. They're so focussed, sometimes I get rattled by it. For them Saawariya is everything.Q: For you also.
A: For a filmmaker every film is important. I can't go wrong in Saawariya. It involves the career of two new talents. I feel Ranbir and Sonam can bring a new style of film acting in our cinema. Of course they do have their parents' qualities. But finally they're complete individuals. Somewhere Indian popular cinema needs more talent at the top. These two fit the bill.
I feel Ranbir and Sonam would take audiences back to the innocence that has been missing in our films for some time. The audiences have watched fantastic performance by Rishi-Neetu and Anil. They want to know what their children are worth. What are your dreams worth if they don't other people's lives?
So far I've fulfilled my own dreams through my films. Now it's my turn to fulfil the dreams of these two kids and ttheir family. Ranbir and Sonam understand their responsibilities towards themselves, their parents and my film. And yet they aren't weighed down by these responsibilities. We've great fun working together. That sense of enjoyment is bound to show up on screen. Q: Is innocence a possibility among today's youngsters?
A: Why not? It has to do with the way you look at life. Ranbir and Sonam are completely uncorrupted. Inncocence is a state of mind. Even today at 76 Lata Mangeshkar sounds pristine. If you're born with that quality you will always be in touch with God.
From their conversations and their approach to their characters I know Ranbir and Sonam are innocent.
They motivate me to find the innocent side of my personality in Saawariya, just like Black helped me get in touch with my dark side. I'm sure I've made the right decision by casting these two. They've certainly rejuvenated me as a filmmaker.