One of my favorite scenes from Bajirao Mastani is the one where Kashi and Maa Saheb are weaving the flag, and talking how they are similar to each other. Kashibai says that all through the years, she was Bajirao's parchhai (shadow) and without telling, he went into darkness. In darkness, a shadow does not exist, making her question her own existence. Thereafter, Maa Saheb compares their lives to a mango tree; even though mango might be the king of fruits, but it is also the one that has to bear the most stones. The two of them bonded by sewing a saffron flag—the flag of their kingdom—as if they are bound together by tradition. In an earlier scene, when Bajirao is leaving Bundelkhand, Mastani is embroidering on a green velvet carpet/flag. It then struck me that there is a similar motif in all of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's films. Like peacocks, mirrors, fountains, paan, top shots, and diyas, this is another pattern that is a signature trope in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film.
In Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, early in the film, Ram's sister-in-law, Kesar is sitting with a bunch of women, and they are embroidering on a beautiful cloth, perhaps, a bed-sheet, and talking about Ram. In Guzaarish, Sofia is embroidering on a piece of cloth when Devyani comes to visit Ethan and talks about his plea for euthanasia. In Saawariya, Sakina is a carpet weaver, and weaves the finest carpet for Iman. In another scene, Jhumri Apa is seen knitting a sweater. In Black, after the incident when Debraj forgets Michelle on the street, she is embroidering on a cloth. Even for a person who cannot see, this motif is still present showing its importance. In Devdas, after Dev comes back from London, Paro comes to meet him, and brings a sweater that she is knitting for him, and puts it on his back to check if the size she estimated for Dev fits him. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, during Albela Sajan, Nandini and the women in her family are again embroidering on a saffron cloth. Later, when Nandini visits Sameer's village, Sameer's mother and a group of women are also embroidering. In Khamoshi, Uncle Willie gives the gramophone to Annie, and she starts dancing on the song. Her mother Flavy is not happy with it as it reminds her of her son, and she starts stitching on the machine making a noise which annoys Annie. In all the films, a lady is weaving, stitching, or embroidering. In almost all of these, the scene comes when a special person is being talked about, and is being missed—Bajirao, Ram, Ethan, Iman, Debraj, Devdas, Sameer, and Sam. Perhaps, there is some intense personal connection that he always put this motif in his films, or it has something to do weaving relationships. They are trying to connect to something to which they cannot physically meet. They are trying to develop a bond. Rishton ki dor. Love is the delicate thread that weaves joy into the fabric of our lives. Even the great Kahlil Gibran has said,"And what is it to work with love?It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth."
It is amazing that every time one watches a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, there is something new. It has been present all along but somehow it was missed earlier. I am watching Bajirao Mastani again, and it seems there are so many details that I missed the first time. Perhaps, that is the mark of a great film. It surprises you with every viewing, peeling the deeper layers, and bringing a fresh perspective to things. As a lifelong student of cinema, it could not be any better.
Kashi, Maa Saheb and Mastani in Bajirao Mastani
Kesar in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
Sofia in Guzaarish
Sakina and Jhumri Aapa in Saawariya
Michelle in Black
Paro in Devdas
Nandini and Sameer's Mom in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Annie and Flavy in KhamoshiOther Reading:-
1. On Bajirao Mastani (link)
2. On Goliyon Ki Raas Leela Ram-Leela (link)
3. On Black (link)
4. On Saawariya (link)
5. On Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (link)
Dialogue of the Day:
"Kehne ke toh aam phalon ka raja, lekin sabse zyada pathar sehna usi ke naseeb me hota hai."
—Maa Saheb, Bajirao Mastani