French opera theatre director wants Bhansali back

March 29th, 2008 - 9:13 am ICT by admin  

By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, March 29 (IANS) Jean-luc Choplin, the director of Paris’ Theatre Du Chatelet which is currently hosting Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opera “Padmavati”, wants the Bollywood filmmaker back for an encore. Speaking from Paris, Choplin told IANS: “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 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. 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 centuries and I think it is very important to do something spectacular.”

Choplin was really impressed by Bhansali’s work in “Devdas”, which had Shah Rukh Khan in the title role, as well as the Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji starrer “Black”.

“I was very impressed when I saw ‘Devdas’ in 2002 mainly because of his art of creating great choreography, movements…Those things are very close to 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 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 artistes there is no barrier between categories and I thought it could not be too difficult for him - so that is how and why we asked him to take up this challenge in Paris.”

Choplin was sure 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 than just looking at filmmaking. I think Bhansali was apt in telling us about the India of today, about ourselves and 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 and the two civilisations.”

Choplin says that Bhansali knew how to blend music, dance and acting together.

“I think what is great with Bhansali is his capacity of storytelling. He works with music and music is dictating the dance and 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 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.”

He also praises Kolkata-based choreographer Tanusree Shankar who worked with Bhansali on “Padmavati”.

“The work of Tanusree Shankar has been a fantastic help.”

Lawrence Foster, the music conductor of “Padmavati”, added: “‘Padmavati’ is a real masterpiece of the French opera, full of tragedy and colours, which fits very well with the work of Bhansali. He gets a huge sensibility, perfect for the moments.

“The thing that astonished me the most was his will to fully respect the music score, and to marry very well the Indians influences. I have deep respect for him, so we should work together again!”

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