Saturday, October 17, 2015

Deewani Mastani—Of Mirrors and Golden Walls

In an interview given to Hindustan Times at the time of release of Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Raam-Leela, Sanjay Leela Bhansali had listed his top five favorite films. 
  • Pakeezah: Because it is Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari’s film. Because of its beautifully expressed anguish. And it’s a great film.
  • Mirch Masala: The interpretation of a village girl and a beautifully made film by Ketan Mehta.
  • Mughal-E-Azam: Because it’s sheer genius. Every second of the film is excellent.
  • Do Ankhen Barah Haath: V Shantaram is my favorite filmmaker. I am most impressed, inspired and influenced by him. 
  • 36 Chowrangee Lane: Aparna Sen’s best work and it will always be. It’s a beautiful film and Jennifer Kapoor has given a wonderful performance.
Sanjay has paid a tribute to these films in his own films. In Devdas, Chandramukhi's mujra dress in the Hum Pe Yeh Kisne Hara Rang Dala is strikingly similar to Sahibjaan's in Pakeezah. In Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Raam-Leela, the character of Rasila was inspired by Smita Patil's in Mirch Masala. In addition, there were mounds of chilli at Leela's house, similar to Mirch Masala. In Saawariya, Gulabji and some other prostitutes sing the song Ae Malik Tere Bande Hum; the song is originally from the film Do Aankhe Barah Haath, directed by V Shantaram. In Ram-Leela, the motif of peacock was inspired by Shantaram's Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje.  At another point in Saawariya, Imaan, Sakina and Badi Ammi watch Mughal-E-Azam and Badi Ammi remembers all the dialogues from that film.

In his next magnum opus and dream project, Bajirao Mastani, Bhansali again pays a tribute and what a magnificent one it is to Mughal-E-Azam. The film's song Deewani Mastani, picturized on Deepika Padukone, is a glorious homage to one of the most iconic songs of Hindi cinema—Jab Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya. Madhubala, dancing in front of the emperor of India, declared her love for Salim in complete defiance of the world. At one point in the song, she sings, "Chhup na sakega ishq hamara, chaaron taraf hai unka nazaara." Her images are then reflected across the mirror walls of the palace. She is everywhere.

In a similar fashion, Bhansali creates a opulent song in his trademark style using the Aina Mahal. In the song, Mastani enters the Shaniwar Wada for the first time. She comes dressed in a golden lehenga, wearing a golden Peshwa topi and a golden nose ring, holding a intricately carved golden mandolin. The golden color matches the walls of the palace. There is, perhaps, a special significance of the golden color, and the matching of the color of her dress and the color of the palace. A palace signifies something strong, grand, and brave. Perhaps, Mastani shares these characteristics with the palace.  Her story will stand the test of time, like the walls of palace are a testament to this era. She sings, "Mashoor mere ishq ki kahani ho gayi. Kehte hai yeh deewani mastani ho gayi." Her love story has become famous, and she has become mad in love. And, this story of hers will be written in 'golden' letters in the annals of history. As they say, itihaas ke sunehre aksharon me likha jayega. As Anarkali's love was everywhere in the walls of Aina Mahal, so is Mastani everywhere in the palace. The palace will be a testimony to her timelessness. Her sillage will linger in the walls of the palace for generations to come. Perhaps, that explains the amalgamation of Mastani and the palace in the song. I got interesting answers from some super awesome people on Twitter, who have articulated it much better than I.

Bajirao's first wife Kashibai, who is watching from the gallery above, is initially enthusiastic by the arrival of Mastani. However, given the radiant beauty of Mastani, and the way Bajirao seems to be charmed by her, a sense of pallid fear and a haunting vulnerability overcomes her. There is a sublime moment when she sees Mastani's image in the mirror walls around her. She will soon get to know that Mastani will indeed become her image, her shadow, her competitor, her rival with whom she has to share Bajirao's love. She was the undisputed queen till now, but things will change soon. The expressions on the faces of Kashibai's helps show that they will add enough ghee to this fire. This unspoken fear reminds me of Zafar Khan in Luck By Chance, when he realizes that his own actions might have created his new competitor.

Mastani dances like a dream, unafraid and unconscious of anything around her. She is madly in love with Bajirao, and this is her way of expressing it. Meera Bai danced and sang in front of the entire village for Lord Krishna, in complete bhakti of her master, unaware of propriety and her marital status; in the same way, Mastani is deewani in Bajirao's love. Meera Bai danced with a veena in her hand, Mastani dances with a mandolin. Her dance movements are like those of whirling dervishes. His love shows her the light. Sab noor noor sa bikhra hai. Ek tu hi khayalon mein utra hai.

My favorite part of the song is the last 45 seconds, when Mastani dances exquisitely, and those views from the top, what grandeur. I wish I could be in such a song, immortalized for ever. Alas, not everyone is as blessed as Deepika Padukone. In my jest, I created this picture. Perhaps, it is a good sign for Bajirao Mastani. December 18, you are awaited.

Song Credits:
Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Singers: Shreya Ghoshal, Ganesh Chandanshive, Mujtaba Aziz Naza, Shahdab Faridi, Altmash Faridi and Farhan Sabri
Choreography: Remo D'Souza
Lyrics: Siddharth Garima and Nasir Faraaz
Song: Link

Other reading:-
1. More on Saawariya here
2. More on Ram-Leela here

Dialogue of the Day:
"Jab Ram naam ka raag lage to paani me bhi aa lage." 
—Leela, Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Raam-Leela


  1. Good read. But for his magnum opus, SLB got the casting wrong IMO. Ranveer-Deepika were good for a fluffy romance in Ram Leela but here Ranveer isn't convincing as a powerful warrior and Deepika isn't beautiful enough for her role.

  2. WOW! Have I told you how addicted I am to your depictions. Whenever I watch a new movie, I just eagerly wait for your blogs to follow and I know you don't have easy access to cinema halls, makes me sad as well. I just hope the movies somehow reach you. You amaze me Dost, keep them coming. God Bless! 😊

  3. Mastani pirouetting and then reflected countless times in the mirrors made me think of the words : "har zarre mein uska noor hai".

    How magnificently beautiful is that song. Like someone painted with magic crayons!

    I blame my awed reactions to my love for all things historical, woven with love. You wrote it brilliantly, like always! :)

  4. KS - Yes, but still excited to see
    Naeema and Manvi - :) :)

  5. Well I love both deepika and Ranveer but yes I am not sure how they would be able to pull off roles like these. The kind of personality Ranveer has its almost impossible to think of him as king, someone who fights war and lives a royal life. But if he pulls of this then that will be somethinv great. My opinion on his acting skills is dependent on this one film. Hope he does well. And I love this song.

  6. I love SLB`s movies.. you have perfectly posted reviews on his movies' grandeur and beauty. I always die for watching is movies.. another thing in common to all SLB`s movies... In all his movies, we can find tradition in his own style and always a song sung by shreya ghoshal (except hum dil de chuke sanam, for she was not in the film industry). Both these combinations makes me his die-hard fan! I hope this similarity is right.

  7. @TheM_A_D yes, eagerly awaited

    @Bashu Same here, love everything Bhansali. Yes, Shreya is his favorite :)


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