Opera theatre director wants Bhansali back

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 28, 2008 07:42 hrs

The posh Theatre du Chatelet which is currently hosting Sanjay Leela Bhansali's opera Padmavati, wants the director back for an encore. Speaking exclusively from Paris, the director of the Theatre Du Chatelet Jean-luc Choplin said, "I think we could not have Padmavati without the help of the original ballet. The incredible success of Sanjay Leela Bhansali lies in the fact that he has been able to at the same time use the ballet to tell the story, to use the singers, to let them act like theatre actors and create a big spectacle on stage with a great luxury of effects. So yes, it would be great if Mr Bhansali could spend a little bit more time in Europe and do another opera at the Chatelet or in another place. He is always welcome to do whatever he wants now."

Choplin stresses the Indian antecedents of the opera. "Padmavati is a French opera but it is inspired by an Indian story and it is an opera ballet which means that it is an opera and a ballet. It is a very famous form in France, created by Lully and Rameau in the 17th and the 18th century and I think it is very important to do something spectacular."

He states, "I was very impressed when I saw in 2002 the film, Devdas. I thought that the choreography and all the art of Mr Bhansali of creating great choreography, movements… those things are very close to the opera direction. After, I saw the film Black I again thought it was very theatrical. So when I was looking for a director for this French opera ballet of Albert Roussel with an Indian story, I immediately thought that it would be a great chance if we could interest this great Indian film director to do an opera. I knew that he was not very familiar with the opera world but sometimes when we are dealing with great artists, there is no barrier between categories and I think it could not be too difficult for him so that is how and why we ask him to take up this challenge in Paris."

Choplin was sure that Bhansali's discipline as a filmmaker would be ideal for the opera. "I was more interested in the idea of having a real dialogue between Indian and European culture rather than just looking at filmmaking. I think Mr Bhansali was apt to tell us about the India of today, to tell us about ourselves and tell us about a very old Indian story even if that story was brought to us at the beginning of the 20th century .What interested me was the dialogue between the two cultures, the two civilizations."

Choplin can't stop praising Bhansali. "I think what is great with what Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done is his capacity of story- telling. He works with music and music is dictating the dance, is dictating everything in an opera. The singers have to sing at the same time that they have to act, so it is a real challenge and Mr Bhansali has been able to deal with this incredible world and to show the singer-actors how to do beautiful movements and to behave on stage. Moreover, the singers and the ballet are together on stage and the work of Tanushree Shankar, the choreography that she has done with her ballet coming from Calcutta has been a fantastic help."

The music conductor of Padmavati, Lawrence Foster adds, "Padmavati is a real masterpiece of the French opera, full of tragedy and colours that fits very well with the work of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He gets a huge sensibility, perfect for the moments the most colourful, as for the moments the most intimates. The thing that astonished me the most was his will to fully respect the music score, and to marry very well the Indian influences. I have a deep respect for him so… we should work together again! Both Mr Bhansali and I can feel the nuances in the music of Roussel. I am only a messenger in order to transcribe exactly the music that is written on the score, which fits well with that Indian story, the brutality, the sensibility… of the story."