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Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s five best films

As Padmavati gets ready to hit the theatres later this month, here’s a look at the director’s top five movies that impressed

Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Courtesy SLB Films
Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Courtesy SLB Films

Padmavati, the mythical story of queen Padmavati and her epic battle with Alauddin Khilji, has been the talk of tinsel town ever since Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced it as the topic of his next creation. Starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, it is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and marks the third collaboration between the trio of Bhansali, Padukone and Singh – after runaway successes of Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013) and Bajirao Mastani (2015).

A storyteller par excellence, Bhansali’s films stand out for their larger-than-life plots, grandiose settings, lavish costumes and scintillating music. In fact, out of the eight movies that he has directed so far, he has also been the music director for three of them – Guzaarish (2010), Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani – creating lilting melodies that are not easily forgotten.

As Padmavati gets ready to hit the theatres next month, controversy permitting, here’s a look at the director’s top five movies that moved audiences.

1. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Starring Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam tells the story of a woman torn between infatuation and real love. This was only Bhansali’s second directorial venture, and it revealed the depths of his cinematic prowess by delivering a phenomenal commercial success (among the highest grossing movies that year), and was also showered with critical acclaim. The film went on to sweep the local awards season (including nine Filmfare trophies), and is widely regarded by fans and critics as one of Bhansali’s best works to date.

2. Devdas (2002)

In this movie adaptation of the novel by the same name, Bhansali recreated West Bengal’s old-world aristocracy with an unapologetic flamboyance and panache. Replete with strikingly lavish sets and soulful music – the highlight of the film undoubtedly was the emotionally moving performances of the leading pair – Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan. With 10 Filmfare awards to its name, the film is tied second in the list of movies with the most Filmfares won. Devdas’s cult status in the legions of Bollywood was further cemented in 2012, after its inclusion in Time magazine’s list of the top 10 movies of the millennium globally.

3. Black (2005)

Holding the record of winning the most Filmfare awards by a single film, 11, in the history of Indian cinema, Black showed audiences and critics alike the single-mindedness of Bhansali’s vision and the finesse of his execution. Depicting the special bond between a deaf and blind girl (Rani Mukerji) and her teacher (Amitabh Bachchan), Black portrayed a plethora of human emotions and championed the triumph of willpower in the face of unsurmountable obstacles. Exquisitely paced and excellently presented – it was a landmark film both for Bhansali’s genre of filmmaking as well as for redefining the benchmark for excellence in Indian cinema at large.

4. Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

Bhansali’s ode to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Ram-Leela (starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh) was as much a visual treat as it was a tear-jerking emotional drama. Infused with passionate love and intense hatred in equal measure – the star-crossed lovers are bathed in the brightness of Bhansali’s world. The sizzling chemistry of the lead pair and the deftness of the supporting cast re-announced to the world the value of Bhansali to Indian cinema, after a series of post-Black critically acclaimed but commercially unviable ventures.

5. Bajirao Mastani (2015)

The true crowning jewel in Bhansali’s throne is undoubtedly the magnum opus Bajirao Mastani. With ravishing sets, brilliantly choreographed war sequences and spellbinding cinematography – peppered with medieval royal elegance – the film trails a love triangle (Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh) transcending religious and societal bounds. Its blockbuster box office run (it was one of the highest grossing films of the year) and its collection of nine Filmfare statuettes has confirmed Bajirao Mastani’s standing in the annals of Indian cinema history.


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Updated: November 18, 2017 05:19 PM