What does it take to be Ash's husband?
Vijayendra Ghatge has a fair idea, in Devdas
He was the Rajshris' hero of the 1980s. Starting in Chitchor and Sunayna, he worked with directors like Basu Chatterjee, Raj Kapoor and Kamal Amrohi.
Two decades of playing varied character roles has Vijayendra Ghatge playing a biggie this time: in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Devdas.
Ghatge claims he still has not seen the film in its entirety: "But whatever bits I have seen of it is beautiful."adds.
Devdas has been an auspicious beginning for this erstwhile prince. He has already signed up films with [producer] Vashu Bhagnani, another with Akshaye Khanna and Ajay Devgan and a Pritish Nandy Communications film.
For Ghatge, playing Aishwarya Rai's husband in Devdas was a tailormade role.:
When I got a call from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's office, it was actually to play a part opposite Kiron Kher (who plays Paro's mother). The call was a welcome surprise.
I had moved on to television after trying my hand at films, and I had cut down on both due to my interests outside the entertainment industry. But I had been looking to returning to the big screen, and I could not have chosen a better vehicle than Devdas.
When I met Sanjay, he realised I would fit the part of Zaminder Bhuvan, the man Paro (Aishwarya Rai) marries. I got the gist of the character when I sat down with the script along with Sanjay and Prakash Kapadia, the screenplay writer.
I play a widower with two children. He remarries at his mother's insistence.
What I like about my character is that he comes from a noble lineage. There is a dignity, a grace in him that appealed to me. Besides, there is a tinge of deep sorrow somewhere --- of having loved his wife and lost her. And he is still wallowing in sorrow.
However, he wants to maintain decorum in the house and society. Sardar, as he is called in the film, is a khandaani aadmi [tradionalist], principled and sensitive. He wants to welcome Paro into his house, but does not want her to have any illusions about the life she would lead with him.
I signed on the role purely because of what I saw of it through Sanjay's eyes. My role is not very long, but it is high in impact.
My favourite scene is the kaalraatri scene. It portrays our wedding night when I show Paro the portrait of my first wife. With that I subtly indicate that while she would be my wife, I will never touch her.
He defines the parameters of their relationship right from the word go. He tells she can do anything she likes within the chaukhat [doorstep] of the house, but she cannot step over the boundary of his house literally and metaphorically. In this scene, Aishwarya is surprised, but in some ways, the situation suits her. She has walked into the marriage on the rebound. She has been spurned by the man she loves and, in some way, is happy with befalls her fate.
I like the drama and the simplicity of this scene.
As the film progresses, the different shades of his character are shown and how the empathy develops between the two of them. There is a scene, where he rebukes her for crossing the boundary of the house --- but he does that very gently, letting her know that he does understand what she is going through. All of us have a vein of sadness in ourselves for what could have been. That is one trait I identify with strongly.
The last scene is also very powerful. He sees Paro running out of the house because Devdas is dying outside and he actually stops her from crossing the boundary of his house.
Aishwarya is cooperative, easy to work with and down-to-earth. She has taken a lot of effort in each scene and dance. And she looks stunning.
What I like most about Devdas is its sheer grandeur and larger-than-life depiction. For example, one usually uses one haveli [mansion] for shots. In this film, Sanjay constructed four havelis for Shah Rukh (Khan), Madhuri (Dixit), Aishwarya and me. Even the costumes are avant-garde.
I have worked with many filmmakers who have made period and historical films. But after Kamal Amrohi's Pakeezah and Razia Sultana, this is the only other lavish film I have ever seen.
Be it art direction, music, dances or the avant-garde costumes --- everything has been made well. I have worked with Raj Sippy, Raj Kapoor and other top directors of our country. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is in their league.
Whether the film is a superflop, a super hit or somewhere in-between, I know the passion and sincerity with which he has worked on this film will always make it stand out in Indian cinema.
What I like about his style of directing is that he roughly stages a scene before Binod Pradhan [cinematographer] lights up the sets. This is what Stanley Kubrick called the Crucial Rehearsal Period. So we would go through the entire scene: our entrances, movements and dialogues.
Sanjay is such a passionate filmmaker that it rubs off on his crew. On the sets, the atmosphere is always focused on the scene being shot. Sanjay demands a lot from himself, his assistants and his team --- the mood on the sets reflects that.
Much has been said about Devdas being a remake and comparisons have been drawn up. I have not seen the other two [P C Barua's 1935 classic, starring K L Saigal and Bimal Roy's 1955 classic, starring Dilip Kumar]. Because once you see them, you tend to use it a reference point somewhere in your mind.
I am sure this Devdas will be completely different from all the other versions made. Sanjay has been inspired by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel and he has drawn on the structure of the story. But the spirit and the treatment of the film is all his own.
People have also questioned its relevance. I wonder how relevant are today's films that are being churned out every year. Themes have been repeated before and remakes have been made. For me, Devdas captures the elegance of an era gone by, where time, emotion, love stood still.
It is a story where love was not instant, not on demand. Sanjay has managed to capture the flavour of a musical, a tragic love story tinged with sacrifice and passion.
As told to Arti R
ALSO READ: The Devdas Special