Before Gangubai Kathiawadi by Alia Bhatt, here is the making of a heroine by Sanjay Leela Bhansali



When Sanjay Leela Bhansali first brought Aishwarya Rai to the screen with their debut collaboration Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, it was the start of something big in the author’s career. Over the years, Bhansali has carved out a niche when it comes to bringing Hindi film heroines to the screen. Unlike most of its contemporaries, its female characters enliven the film and are presented on screen with a charming delicacy. The woman in a Bhansali Movie is not there to help someone else’s story, it is the story. Resembling a glamorous goddess, Bhansali’s many actress collaborators are known for their on-screen grace and the perfection they bring to every frame.

Over the many years that Bhansali has directed films, actresses like Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit, Rani Mukerji, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone have worked with the filmmaker and now Alia Bhatt is the latest actor to join his cinematic world.

Each of these actors found fame and glory while working in a Bhansali film, and over the years, the title of a Bhansali heroine gained high profile status. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that these women turned out to be superstars at the time, but also because Bhansali’s female characters had their own agency, even before that. Take for example the case of by Priyanka Chopra Kashibai at Bajirao Mastani. Although she played a supporting role in the film and was only on screen for a few minutes, Kashibai made an impression that was hard to shake. During a media interaction in 2015, Priyanka shared that she was the first person to be cast in the film, even though hers wasn’t a starring role. “Let me tell you, I was the first person to be cast in this movie. I remember Sanjay coming to me with this script and it was clear he wanted me to do this movie,” he said. she then stated.

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

Bhansali had a long association with Aishwarya Rai, and her movies added a lot to her filmography. In a previous interview with Filmfare, Bhansali had shared that he met Aishwarya for the first time at a screening for Raja Hindustani and immediately knew it was his Nandini (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam). He confessed that although she had a “Miss World image and a western face”, he thought the woman who was popularly known as the most beautiful woman in the world would look perfect as the ghaghra-wearing Nandini.

Bhansali again worked with Aishwarya in her iteration of Devdas. The fact that Aishwarya’s wardrobe for the film has more than 600 sarees says a lot about the level of detail that went into creating Paro’s character. Rai shared in a 2002 interview with Man’s World, “This movie would never have turned out the way it did had it been conceived and executed by another director. It’s all his vision, everything. From the fabrics used for our costumes to the chandeliers on set, he chose everything himself.

For Chandramukhi, played by Madhuri Dixit, Bhansali enlisted the best crew members available and created an ensemble that always leaves you in awe. In a previous interview, Bhansali mentioned that the casting of Madhuri and Aishwarya seems to be on point. He saw a lot of parallels between the two, in terms of performance and screen presence. “This man, he works with passion. The way he writes the scenes, the way he does the songs, his attention to detail, every little thing has to be taken care of,” Madhuri said of Sanjay directing Devdas.

sanjay leela bhansali aishwarya rai bachchan madhuri dixit devdas Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai on the set of Devdas. (Photo: Express Archive)

When Bhansali started collaborating with Deepika Padukone, it was the start of a new chapter for both of them. Playing Leela in Goliyon Ki Raleela Ramleela, Mastani in Bajirao Mastani and Rani Padmavati in Padmaavat, Bhansali presented Padukone in a way that enhanced her beauty and extracted some of her best performances. She once called their collaboration an “iconic partnership” that created “iconic characters.” “I say this without a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without Sanjay Leela Bhansali,” Deepika wrote in a social media post.

Deepika has said many times that Sanjay Leela Bhansali brings out the best in her as an actress. She once told Pinkvilla, “I think I share a very spiritual relationship with him because we don’t talk a lot, we don’t communicate a lot, but whatever we feel, we do through our eyes. We look at each other and know exactly what the other is thinking or feeling. And to me, I think that also says a lot about the confidence he has in me as an actor. The fact that before each scene he doesn’t have to discuss graphically, he doesn’t have to discuss what this actor is going to do with this particular character. What is she going to do… there is no discussion. He gives me that freedom. He empowered me as an actor in so many ways and I think that just means there’s an immense amount of faith and trust.

padmaavat screening Deepika Padukone with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. (Photo: Deepika Padukone/Instagram)

In Bhansali’s upcoming film titled Gangubai Kathiawadi, he is collaborating with actor Alia Bhatt. “He gives you a lot of space and time to live with your role and your character. I’m the newest addition to the list of actors he’s worked with. You ask any of the actors, everyone says he’s just on the next level, working with him is a dream, it’s like a trip, it’s like the most nutritious food for an actor, like the healthiest there is,” Alia said in a post. recent interview with

It remains to be seen if Alia becomes Sanjay’s muse for his next films and if she can create the same kind of magic that the actresses who have come before her have created in an SLB film.

Gangubai Kathiawadi hits theaters on February 25.

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