When talking about Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the thing that stands out is his ability to tell a story in grand settings. “Having a great set is as important as having great actors in a film,” he says. With so many tremendous films that SLB has given Bollywood, here are the best ones that had SLB create magic on the silver screen with his sets.
The most famous love story portrayed in a way that no other director would ever be able to do it like him. A film that had Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan work together alongside Ajay Devgn was truly unforgettable. The film was majorly shot in Rajasthan and had huge sets designed to add glamour to the film. In the garba song ‘Dholi Taro’, the art-director used marigold flowers underneath the acrylic floor because SLB wanted to light it up. These flowers are traditionally used in temples and were placed under the acrylic sheets which eventually helped lighten the floor as well as the whole set. While the song was being shot, the floor looked beautiful than ever, with an orange background and nobody could tell that it was lit because of the marigold flowers and not the lighting.
The remake of the 1955 epic Devdas played by Shah Rukh Khan was another magnificent hit by Sanjay Bhansali. The film also had Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri playing the role of Paro and Chandramukhi respectively. SLB had humungous sets designed to show the Havelis in the film where the actors would reside. Paro's beautiful glass house was made out of 1.22 lakh stained glass pieces which had to be retouched with paint every time it rained. SLB spent Rs.50 crores on the film is still considered as one of the most expensive Hindi films ever made with Rs.20 crore spent on six sets alone. Out of which, the cost of setting up Chandramukhi's Kotha in the film was Rs. 12 crores. Bhansali used over 700 light men and 42 generators during the shoot. In fact, real weddings at that time had to suffer due to unavailability of enough light and décor.
Yet another massive film by Sanjay Bhansali starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai playing the leads. In this film, SLB designed major houses and theatres where Hrithik performed his magical tricks. SLB didn’t allow anybody on the sets, not even the actors to carry their phones and each person was warned not to try to click any pictures of the sets. SLB would try to use natural lights and lamps inside the theatres to give the shots, a natural look.
The first film that bought DeepVeer together, Ram Leela was an exclusive project that gave SLB huge success after a long time. The film is based on the love story of Romeo and Juliet and portrays the fights between Rajari and Sanera (the enemies) and how the movie takes a turn from hate to love between the two families. SLB was too particular in every scene during the film. During the 1st scene of Dhankor, there was a debate about the curtains. Should they be ornate like the apparel or they must provide a dash of simplicity? There were about 200 curtain samples to choose from. Production designer Wasiq Khan asked an assistant to put up a roughly textured jute curtain on the wall. Bhansali loved it. That curtain stayed in the scene.
The film based on the life of heroic Peshwa Bajirao who falls in love with Mastani, a warrior princess is beyond marvellous. The film had Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra play the leads and were a colossal hit at the box office. During the shoot of the song ‘Deewani Mastani’, the Aaina Mahal required 4,500 wooden planks and 100 workers a day. Also the song Pinga was a true test of patience because Bhansali wanted to shoot the song at night in an open-air set and used 'diyas' and torches to light up the background. Each time a Diya snuffed out, set artists had to stop the shoot and light it up. Sanjay was so particular about it that he would refuse to use VFX (visual effects) in post-production to cover up these tiny things.
The film portrays the story of Queen Padmavati played by Deepika Padukone. The queen who is happily married to a Rajput ruler (Shahid Kapoor) until an autocrat Sultan, Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), enters their life and calls a war on the Rajput’s kingdom due to his obsession and love for the queen. The set designed for the film in Jaipur's Nahargarh Fort was suspended due to some issues faced by SLB and a whole new set was built at Film City, Mumbai with same elements to give the same feel. Bhansali was assaulted and put into danger twice and even his sets and costumes were burned into ashes during the shoot. He did not give up even then. He built the entire set, the third time and asked his designers to make new costumes without delay to continue their shoot. Such dedication did pay off!