Bhansali exults as 'Black' is among Time's best films

Jan 9, 2006 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Jan 9 (IANS) Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Black" has been selected by Time magazine's influential critic Richard Corliss as one of the 10 best films of 2005 - and the filmmaker is extremely elated.

"It is a great victory for Indian cinema and all my cast and crew. It feels very comforting," an exultant said.

Corliss, citing his reasons for choosing "Black", had written: "This is an unusual film for India... the ultimate Bollywood love story."

"I feel extremely reassured. It feels as though my hard work has paid off," Bhansali told IANS.

The others in the list include Werner Herzog's "The White Diamond" and "Grizzly Man", Ingmar Bergman's "Saraband", Fernando Meirelles' "The Constant Gardener" and Rob Marshall's "Memoirs Of A Geisha".

Excerpts from the interview:

Sanjay, how does it feel?

What should I say? Richard Corliss had been extremely kind to my "Devdas". Now he has this verdict for "Black". I feel extremely reassured. It feels as though my hard work has paid off. If a distinguished critic from another part of the world thinks "Black" is one of the 10 best films of the year, then there must be something to it. It is a great victory for Indian cinema and all my cast and crew. It feels very comforting.

"Black" was a film that was completely off the Bollywood genres. When you do something different and it connects so widely and hugely, you are bound to feel reassured. I didn't make the film for any market, or to impress any section of viewers. I just did what came from the heart. It got a standing ovation all over the world. And now it gets ovation from Richard Corliss.

Even Sony Pictures, for whom I am making my next film, felt "Black" was a very moving experience. It acknowledged the movie as being among the superior films from any part of the world.

Some quarters in Bollywood have been going on about "Black" being derived from Arthur Penn's "Miracle Worker"?

Criticism is a healthy impetus for growth. Everybody doesn't have to like my film. If Jaya Bachchan hadn't constructively criticised "Devdas", maybe I'd have never made "Black". She spurred me to attempt something totally different. If some people have not liked "Black" it is fine. Better luck to me next time. But it is not "The Miracle Worker". It is the life of Helen Keller. Her life has a timeless quality. It can be expressed in any form - a play, a TV series, a film from India or Hollywood.

If a director interprets Helen Keller's life in his own way it does not mean he is copying another film on the subject. If a director makes a film on Gandhi it does not mean he is stealing incidents from Richard Attenborough's film.

Helen Keller's life is exemplary to all of us. I have personally learnt so much from her. I learnt the value of a teacher in any student's life. "Black" is my interpretation of the age-old teacher-student relationship. And the language was sign language, not Hindi and English. "Black" is about feeling, not speaking.

Corliss had also singled out "Devdas"...

It makes me happy proud and fulfilled. The more the people respond to my cinema the more alive I feel. To be in Corliss' list along with world masters like Werner Herzog and Ingmar Bergman makes me feel extremely comforted. The fact that a story about a deaf-and-blind protagonist can be formatted in the popular genre was to me the biggest challenge.

Every person whether Amitabh Bachchan in "Deewaar" or Rani Mukerji in "Black" is a hero deep down. Every person is capable of extraordinary achievements. For this film to get such widespread acceptance is a victory for all physically and mentally challenged people of the world. It is not just socio-political issues that make a film important. It is the ability to talk to the most neglected sections of our society that makes a film special.

Where do you think "Black" goes from here?

Where can it go? I only know how to make a film. I do not know how to market it. Once I make a film, I let it go wherever destiny will take it. Unfortunately I do not know the art of selling my film. I am deeply obliged to Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji.

Look at their performances. Bachchan is world-class, incomparable. "Black" would not have been possible without him. Rani's is the best performance by a female actor since Seema Biswas in "Bandit Queen". And Ayesha Kapoor... Richard Corliss has spoken about the performances. This is a victory for all of us. It is a victory for Bachchan. I could not have asked for more.

Corliss has called "Black" the ultimate Bollywood love story?

Strangely it is apt. Love has many forms. "Black" is about the love between a girl and her teacher. They teach each other the dignity of living. To call "Black" a love story is a true compliment. "Black" is a pure love story.

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