faceboo Bhansali's Glass Magic: Reflecting Story and Emotions Through Design | Saint Gobain

Bhansali's Glass Magic: Reflecting Story and Emotions Through Design

April 10, 2024
Last updated on May 02, 2024

Architecture is a bold and long-lasting identity that speaks for itself through built structures, whereas cinema is a play of expressions and narrative writing. They share a deep bond that is both profound and superficial.

Set design and architecture contribute to the authenticity and believability required by the director to make his film as true to the story and setting as possible. The emergence of the "Art director" as a necessary component of filmmaking is the most compelling evidence of this. The use of materials, colors, objects, etc. thus are the different tools through which a designer propagates the narration of the story, the mood of a scene, etc.

set design

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Technological advancements have opened up a plethora of possibilities that have been chanced upon by designers to showcase aspects of cinema and storytelling, through glass as a medium. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not known for his subtlety. His films are distinguished by their size, grandeur and larger than life depictions.

Bhansali's film sets have gone down in Indian cinema's golden history for being visually spectacular, a feat that only he can dare to achieve. Below mentioned are a few of his movies where Glass has played a narrator of the story and has symbolified moods and emotions of various characters.

movie set

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Devdas (2002), a tragedy that brought out the best in the director. The story had previously been adapted for the big screen, but Bhansali's version was a sight to behold - not just for the performance, but also for the movie sets, which were built to perfection. Everything about the film was brilliant, from Paro's haveli to Chandramukhi's kotha despite the fact that it was made over a decade ago. Paro's room was decorated with approximately 1.22 lakh pieces of stained glass, and the entire haveli cost approximately Rs 3 crore. According to reports, Chadramukhi's kotha, which was built around an artificial lake, cost around Rs 12 crores.

paros room

© 2022 Condé Nast

The use of intricate stained glass patterns in Paro’s haveli and room as against the solid and austere stately old mansion of Dev’s character clearly depicted the socio-economic class divide that existed between the families of the two characters. Chandramukhi’s kotha and the immensely intricate but large chandeliers and glass windows, significantly differentiated her character from the others. The elaborate sets and her living quarters also significantly contrasted with her place in the larger social ecosystem.

Goliyon Ki Raasaleela Ram-Leela (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015), and Padmaavat (2018) are considered a trilogy by critics. All three films have the lavish choreography, brilliant camera work, and music that gently accentuates the action that we have come to expect from a Bhansali period piece.

In the movie Padmaavat, the visual austerity of the Khilji’s living quarters is broken down in the sequence where he is appreciating his own self in the large life-sized mirrors carried around by his subjects. The use of glass in the scene is not only for visual aesthetics but provides a great insight into the character’s mind and behavior.

Chandramukhi’s kotha

© 2022 Condé Nast

The stunning Aaina Mahal was one of the most talked about aspects of the Rs 145 crore budget movie, Bajirao Mastani. The set, inspired by Mughal-E-Azam aesthetics, was reportedly made with over 20,000 intricately designed mirrors handpicked from Jaipur and 13 chandeliers. The intricate details of the characters reflecting the trauma and dilemma of Kashibai witnessing Bajirao and Mastani publicly meeting, to the austerity of Bajirao’s mother to degrade Mastani and the beautiful dance sequence by Mastani – all were encapsulated beautifully with glass in the backdrop.

Lighting was one of the most noticeable differences between the palaces in Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat (Chittor). Bajirao was set in the eighteenth century, when time glasses were popular. Because the flames were contained by glass, they flickered less. However, because glass was not common in Padmavaat's setting in the fourteenth century, the light sources were open.

aaina mahal

© 2022 Condé Nast

If there are no visuals or scenes to resemble or elaborate the storyline, one wouldn’t be able to understand the look and feel that the writer wishes to express. What matters is the designers' ability to create a convincing setting to weave the story within, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's films have successfully used glass as a narrator.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a master of visually appealing films that are remembered for their intricate details and jaw-dropping depictions; and the tasteful use of glass has intersected with his filmmaking to produce a magical journey for everyone to enthrall.

Authored by
Shiza Christie

Shiza Christie is an Architect - and Urban Designer, an observer of the phenomenon of time, and forever enchanted by the power of words. These days she spends her time deliberating on urban complexities, its constituents, and placemaking.




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