Little did we know that Sanjay Leela Bhansali who had done his editing course at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (1985-88) was kicked out of the institute and could not complete his diploma film that hounts him till date. The well reputed director feels that a part of his soul is still at the Film Institute and despite having directed seven acclaimed films, he still feels a lack of completeness that he believes he may be able to achieve if he were to someday edit another student’s film or teach there. The director even said that he goes back to the institute every time before starting a film. SLB recently spent a day with us taking us around the campus and reliving his old memories.
When we asked SLB about the the meaning of significance of him getting into the Film Institute..
Sanjay Leela Bhansali said, “The first day I came to the institute was with my sister Bela di in 1982 when she wanted me to fill up the form. That time, we were not allowed in through the gate. Bela di got through in 1982. For me, coming through this gate was a big thing as there were stories of Jaya Bachchan and Kundan Shah and Ketan Mehta and Vinod Chopra coming out of here, so there was always a dream to come out of this campus. That orange gate still haunts me. I first tried in 1984 but could not get in. I tried a second time in 1985 and got through and I can never forget that August rain in Pune when my dream came true. I kept going to the loo till Bela came and told me I had got in. There is a lane just outside where Nana Patekar lives and I kept walking there. Getting in the institute was the turning point in my life.”
When asked about the changes he has observed within himself from being a student to his transformation into a director..
Sanjay calmly said, “I was my best and only friend and was extremely quiet. Sriram Raghavan stayed right next to my room and Raju Hirani on the same floor but I would, at best, say only a hello to them. I am better now and I can at least say hello to people. I had decided I won’t allow myself to be ragged even though I knew it was a way to break barriers with other students and overcome your inhibitions. But I found it humiliating and did not allow it as a result and did not form a part of the gang. I was very insignificant, unobtrusive, unnoticeable and made no mark at all. But people would feel that I was arrogant and rude and therefore when my moment of trouble came and I was to be chucked out of the institute, I did not find the support coming my way which should have as I had no connect with people and no one fought for me.”
When asked about the reason behind chucking him out of the college..
Sanjay said, “Even though I was a very good student, it came from the director who wanted to revamp the institute and picked up the quietest student of the lot, the person who slept at 9 pm and woke up at 6 am and chucked him out. I was thrown out of the institute. I was an editing student. We did not have a direction batch so they decided to call a director from outside, one director for each student who would give his film to us to edit. This was to be our diploma film. Dilip Ghosh was the director whose film I had to edit. But we just did not get along and I had issues working with him. So I requested my institute director KG Verma that I wanted another director whose film I could edit. But Mr Verma had decided to clamp down on student anarchy that he felt existed at that time and refused my request. He said, ‘We have given you the option, if you can’t work with him then too bad.’ There were many students who offered to direct a film for me but Mr Verma did not agree.
My diploma film meant everything to me and I had no choice so I filed a court case. The court in Mumbai went against me as they felt that I had been given a chance and so there was no unfairness meted out to me by the institute. I remember going to the director’s room and crying and saying, ‘You can’t do this to me. I come from a very poor family and this is my dream.’ I had dry cleaned all my clothes and kept for the two months that I would sit and edit my diploma film. This is what I had worked for and dreamt for and then my dream was broken. I was very angry and I remember I came in a rickshaw through the gate and went straight up to my room, packed my bag and went straight out of the gate. There were some students who just showed their superficial sympathy but honestly no one was bothered. That is the day I decided that I would make a film before any of them would and I did. There was an anger that stimulates you and I howled all the way to Mumbai in the taxi. I saw my dream shattered. I needed to be a part of this place more than or equal to any other person there. After so many years of struggling for it, I had been chucked out. I was finally given my diploma but they did not give me the diploma film.”
We were also interested in finding out what happened after he got back home..
Sanjay reliving his old days, said, “I cannot forget that day when I walked up with my saaman in my hand. I had gone to get a diploma that would have insured me of a job but I had come back empty-handed. My mother knew it from the time I had gone to court and did not say anything. Bela was heartbroken but she said, ‘You do what you have to do.’ That day was very difficult. To start all over again from scratch but to realise that I had left something incomplete here. I have made seven films now but my diploma film is not there. Every year I come here, I go to the canteen, go to the terrace, go to the boys mess and hostel and keep walking like a ghost and then I go back. I feel my soul belongs here as a filmmaker. I hope I can come and teach here someday or may be just complete the diploma film of another student.”