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Sanjay Leela Bhansali On The Process Of Understanding the Audience Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the audience and its role in a filmmaker's life said that "any filmmaker who says he knows the audiences living in a fool's paradise."

By Kavya Pillai

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Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Netflic CEO Ted Sarandos

In films, the audience plays the most important role and for it to be successful, it is fundamental for the audience to identify with the characters in the story. All successful stories have a subtle way of involving the audience in the story on a mental level. Think about all those times when you were so immersed in a film that you found yourself making decisions for the characters and rooting for their wins.

There are three ways filmmakers lure the audience into the story, the first being physical. In this, the filmmaker employs sound and camera techniques to 'physically' place the audience in the film. The second is emotional, filmmakers play to the audience's emotions by creating characters and situations to draw out emotions like sympathy and relatability. Characters find a place in the audience's hearts when they are funny, beautiful, skilled and charming. The third is moral, the audience understands what is the conflict of values in the film and then understands what the story is about.

To learn more about understanding the audience and its role in a filmmaker's life we look back on a conversation between filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos during which Bhansali had said that "any filmmaker who says he knows the audience is living in a fool's paradise." He explained how as a filmmaker you never know the audience yet, "they are everything to you."

Filmmakers need to understand that the audience is "changing with us". More importantly, it is the filmmaker that is changing the audience. He explained how one needs to shift their worry from what the audience, distributor, studio or sector wants. Instead, we should simply make films "that come to your heart, whether people like it or even feel it."

One thing the filmmaker needs to have clarity about is themselves. "The filmmaker has to understand himself. They are the ones who need to know what the audience doesn't expect, what the audience has never seen before" and present that in their films. Bhansali emphasized that post the Covid-19 pandemic, things have changed. The audience's demand has increased. "The demand of quality that they (the audience) want from the film is high, so the filmmaker now is on high alert. As he has to be able to give the film a new treatment, a new subject, and nuances. He now demands more from his actors, everybody has to come together to make a great film"

Bhansali shared how before the release of Gangubai (2022) headlined by actor Alia Bhatt, he had been advised not to make it. The film went on to perform wonders with the audience yet before he took up the project he was told not to do women-centric films. "I was told that in India they will not go to a female subject". "All the cards were stacked against the film but how did it work? That's what a filmmaker needs to believe." He concluded by saying there is no study you need, just follow what you feel strongly about. Sarandos echoed, "and I have to say that because of that concentration on the audience, I love working with Sanjay. Because he has always been clear that this (his work) is for the audience"

Kavya Pillai

Entrepreneur Staff

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