25 Years of Sanjay Leela Bhansali: What Defines the ‘SLB’ Brand of Films?

Sanjay Leela Bhansali- the man of opulence, passion, and perfection, completes 25 years in the industry today. His directorial debut film Khamoshi released on the 9th of August 1996, and since then the world of cinema has been blessed with Bhansali’s craft of larger-than-life and picture-perfect filmmaking. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not just a director and screenwriter, he is a genre unto himself!

25 years later, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a brand. Needless to say, he has a distinctive style to his films that make them stand out from the rest. A few signature SLB elements are what give viewers unmatched experiences, leaving them mesmerised and craving for more. His films are nothing short of magical, and are synonymous with one word- EPIC!

So what makes a film, an “SLB film”?

1. Splendour

It is hardly a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film if you don’t see larger-than-life sets and over-the-top costumes in it. Be it the huge stained-glass Havelis in Devdas, luxury designer gowns for a nurse in Guzaarish, or abnormally long sarees that flow behind the actress as she runs across the halls of her multi-storey bungalow, SLB doesn’t shy away from exaggeration. But this exaggeration is something that only he can pull off without coming off as irrational. Apart from the grandeur, it is the aesthetically pleasing visuals on screen that makes a Bhansali film what it is. His films look like dreams and leave you spellbound. As they say, each frame in an SLB film looks like a painting.

2. Strong Female Protagonists

Even though all of Bhansali’s female characters experience tragedy in some or another form, these women come off as strong and fierce. They hold power…enough and more to change the course of other characters in the film. These women assert power and decide the fate of the men in their stories. However, he refuses to let go of grace and femininity at the cost of power in his female protagonists. They beautifully manage to coexist.

3. Character Introductions through songs

His distinctive style and signature elements aside, Bhansali retains the mainstream Bollywood-style character entries in his films. We see the usual reveal of the lead character and a bunch of background dancers, however, he gives us more than just a dramatic song sequence to look at. The lyrics of the song and visuals on screen introduce us more deeply to the character and give us a glimpse of their personality. The song Manmohini in Hum Dil Chuke Sanam is the perfect example. The audience is made aware of her sharp and fiery character through the song right from her first appearance. Similarly, Silsila Ye Chahat Ka in Devdas introduces us to Paro and her yearning for Devdas’ return- something she had been looking forward to all her young life.

4. Absence of happily ever afters

SLB’s stories are as much about tragedy, longing, sacrifice and unrequited love as much as they are about passion and sweet innocent romance. Lovers in Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies do not see happy endings. Their love stories remain incomplete and are either ruled by death or change of heart. The characters go through immense suffering and do not get the ending they desire.

5. Music expressing Eternal Love

Music has always played a major role in fleshing out Bhansali’s vision of his films. It is said, he frames his scenes with the music in mind. Naturally, the songs in his movies express eternal love as competently as the scenes do. Sometimes, even better. Laal Ishq from Ramleela, Jhonka Hawa Ka Aaj Bhi from Hum Dil Chuke Sanam, Aayat from Bajirao Mastani– beautifully highlight the theme of all Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies- Eternal Love!

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