Sanjay Leela Bhansali is an Indian film director, producer, screenwriter, and music director. One of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in Indian cinema, Bhansali is the recipient of several awards, including four National Film Awards and ten Filmfare Awards. In 2015, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award.
He made his directorial debut with Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) for which he received Filmfare Critics Award for Best Film. He rose to prominence in Indian cinema with commercially successful and widely acclaimed romantic drama Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), the romantic drama Devdas (2002) —which received nomination for Best Foreign Film at British Academy of Film & Television Awards (BAFTA)— and the drama Black (2005), for all of which he received multiple Best Director Award and Best Film Award along with additional Critics Award for Best Film for the latter at Filmfare Awards, and multiple National Film Awards for the latter two. However, he followed it by directing consecutive commercially flop films Saawariya (2007) and Guzaarish (2010).
This changed with his adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet —the tragic romance Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)— opened to positive reviews and strong box-office collections for which he received several awards and nominations. His home production biographical sports film Mary Kom (2014) made him receive his third National Film Award. His historical romance Bajirao Mastani (2015) received critically acclaim and emerged as one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time, for which he won National Film Award for Best Direction, as well as Best Director and Best Film Awards at Filmfare.
He is an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India. He is the founder of a production house, Bhansali Productions. Bhansali has adopted the middle name "Leela" as a tribute to his mother, Leela Bhansali.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali was born (on 24 February 1963) in Mumbai, India to a Jain family. His father was film maker Navin Bhansali and mother Leela Bhansali. Bhansali's father struggled with alcoholism and eventually succumbed to it. Bhansali has a sister named Bela Segal.
Bhansali began his career as an assistant to Vidhu Vinod Chopra and was involved in the making of Parinda, 1942: A Love Story and Kareeb. However, they had a fall out when Bhansali refused to direct Kareeb. In 1996, he made his directorial debut with Khamoshi: The Musical, the commercially unsuccessful but critically acclaimed narration of a daughter's struggle to communicate with her deaf mute parents. The film earned Critics Award for Best film at Filmfare. He rose to prominence in Indian cinema with a triangular love story, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, starring Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan, and Ajay Devgan which established his individualistic stamp for visual splendor and creating auras of celebration and festivity. The film was premiered in the Indian Panorama section at the 1999 International Film Festival of India. It was a great commercial and critical success which won numerous awards including four National Awards and nine Filmfare Awards.
His next film, Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, was Bhansali's ode to the novel of the same name which became the highest-grossing film of 2002. The film also received unanimous acclaim from the critics and won all the major accolades at Filmfare, emerging as the most awarded film in Filmfare (tied with 1995 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge). At 50th National Film Awards, it won five awards including Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment for himself. It received nomination for Best Foreign Film at British Academy of Film & Television Awards (BAFTA). It was India's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was also screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. It stood eighth in Time magazine's "The 10 Greatest Movies of the Millennium (Thus Far)". His next film, Black, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji, broke his own all-time record of Devdas by garnering eleven awards, the highest number of awards ever given to a single film at Filmfare. It stood fifth in Time (Europe)'s "10 Best Movies of the Year 2005" among films from across the world. At 53rd National Film Awards, he received his second National award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Black earned him multiple Best Director and Best Film Awards at Filmfare, the latter also received additional Critics Award for Best Film. In 2006, Bhansali participated as a judge on reality TV show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa alongside Farah Khan and Shilpa Shetty.
Bhansali's next film Saawariya released in 2007 was met with sharp criticism and poor collections at the box office. In 2008, Bhansali staged the opera Padmavati, an adaption of the 1923 ballet written by Albert Roussel. The first show premiered in Paris at the prestigious Théâtre du Châtelet and next at the Festival dei Due Mondi, where it received "fifteen minutes of standing ovation and seven curtain calls at the end of the first show." Bhansali received many positive comments from international critics for his work. In 2010, Bhansali released Guzaarish starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in which he also made his debut in music direction. The film received positive to mixed reviews from critics but also could not perform well at the Box Office. Guzaarish earned him Best Director nomination at Filmfare. In 2011, he became a judge on Indian music talent show X Factor India Season 1. The same year, he also produced musical comedy film My Friend Pinto which also received mixed reviews and tanked at the box office. In 2012, Bhansali produced Rowdy Rathore, a remake of the Telugu film Vikramarkudu, starring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha and directed by Prabhu Deva. The film received mixed reviews from critics and became a major commercial success, Box Office India labelled it as a blockbuster film. The following year, he produced Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi which also received mixed reviews but could not perform well in the box office.
In 2013, Bhansali directed Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, starred Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in the lead roles. Some religious groups opposed the movie claiming that the former title Ramleela was misleading because the movie had nothing to do with Ramlila, traditional enactment of the life and story of Hindu deity, Lord Rama. The film's release had been stayed by Delhi High Court due to the controversy over it's title, claiming that the movie hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. Later the film's title was changed to Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram-Leela and eventually released in India as scheduled. However, after a week of release, Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court banned the movie release in Uttar Pradesh. Despite the controversy and limited release, the film opened to critical acclaim and strong box-office collections worldwide, ultimately earned ₹2.02 billion (US$31 million) and emerged as the fifth highest grossing film of 2013. The film garnered several award nominations for Bhansali including Best Film and Best Director nominations at Filmfare. The same year, Bhansali debuted in television with the show Saraswatichandra starring Gautam Rode and Jennifer Winget which he later left after few episodes.
The following year, he produced biographical sports film Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra, which premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, becoming the first Hindi film to be screened on the opening night of the festival. The film became both commercial and critical success and received various accolades along with Best Film nomination at Filmfare. At 62nd National Film Awards, Bhansali received another National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment for the film. In 2015, he produced action drama film Gabbar Is Back starring Akshay Kumar which also emerged as commercial success with positive reviews from the critics. Bhansali's next directorial venture was his dream project, the period romance Bajirao Mastani (2015), based on the love story between Peshwa Baji Rao I and his second wife Mastani. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone played the title roles, while Priyanka Chopra played Bajirao's first wife Kashibai. The film was announced in 2003 and was constantly in the news regarding the cast, including such actors as Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukerji. The descendants of Bajirao I and Mastani expressed their disapproval of this film, claiming excessive creative liberty by Bhansali causing wrongful portrayal of their ancestors. A petition was filed in Bombay High Court seeking stay on the film but the High Court refused to interfere with its release. It received tremendous critical acclaim across the world and was listed among the best films of 2015 by several sources, Despite the controversy, the film emerged as one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time. The film received many accolades at various award ceremonies in India. At 63rd National Film Award, Bajirao Mastani won seven awards in which Bhansali won the National Award for Best Director. The film was featured among the 2016 Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India. Bajirao Mastani was selected as India's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 74th Golden Globe Awards. The following year, he produced a Marathi film Laal Ishq.
Bhansali is directing his next period drama film Padmavati, jointly produced by him and Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, also written by him. The film features Deepika Padukone in the title role as Rani Padmini, alongside Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in the title roles of Rawal Ratan Singh and Alauddin Khilji respectively. During the shooting of the film in January 2017 in Jaipur, the members of Shri Rajput Karni Sena protested at sets at Jaigarh Fort and physically attacked Bhansali and his crew members, alleging that he depicted wrong facts in the film and also tried to vandalize the sets. On 6 March 2017, these members again vandalized the Chittorgarh Fort and broke the mirrors installed in the palace of Rani Padmini. On 15 March 2017 a group of unidentified vandals again attacked and set fire to the sets of this movie in Kolhapur which led to production set, costumes and jewelleries burnt.
Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 1 (Judge) – 2006
X Factor India (Judge) – 2011
Saraswatichandra (Producer) – 2013
Stage Opera Padmavati (Director) – 2008
National Film Awards
2003: Screen Award for Best Director – Devdas
2003: Screen Award for Best Film – Devdas
International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards
2000: IIFA Best Director Award – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
2000: IIFA Best Movie Award – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
2000: IIFA Best Screenplay – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Shared with Kenneth Phillips)
2000: IIFA Best Story – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Shared with Pratap Karvat)
2003: IIFA Best Director Award – Devdas
2006: IIFA Best Director Award – Black
2006: IIFA Best Movie Award – Black
2014: IIFA Best Director Award – Goliyon Ki Rasleela- Ramleela – (Nominated)
2016: IIFA Best Director Award – Bajirao Mastani
Zee Cine Awards
2000: Zee Cine Best Director Award – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
2000: Zee Cine Best Film Award – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
2000: Zee Cine Best Story Award – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (shared with Prakash Karwat)
2005: Zee Cine Best Director Award – Black
2005: Zee Cine Best Film Award – Black
2000: Zee Gold Award – Best Director – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
2000: Zee Gold Award – Best Screenplay – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Shared with Kenneth Phillips)
2005: Stardust Special Award – Black
2015: He was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India.