Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Devdas released 19 years ago. It was with this film that we officially stepped into the opulent world of the director who left no stone unturned in making this film a visual extravaganza. Bhansali had established his strong visual aesthetic with his 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam but with Devdas, he created a world that would eventually become associated with his grandiose style.
Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, Devdas was one of the most expensive films that Hindi cinema had seen until then. The effect of its intricately planned costumes was such that they dictated Indian fashion for a while. The enormous sets that look like museums might be a mainstay for a Bhansali film today, but back then, it left the audience’s jaw on the floors.
As Bhansali’s epic turns 19, here’s a look at what went into its making.
1. The most expensive Hindi film, until 2002
At the time when Devdas released, it was the most expensive Hindi film that was ever made. At a cost of around Rs 50 crore, Devdas was a mammoth project. The film’s producer Bharat Shah was arrested in 2001 after an investigation that found out that one of his films had been financed by the underworld. At this time, Devdas was still under production and the film’s future was in jeopardy.
2. The sets cost Rs 20 crore
The film’s intricate sets played a huge role in its rising cost, and these stood in place for around 7-9 months. The most expensive set was that of Chandramukhi’s kotha that cost around Rs 12 crore. The set of Paro’s house was created using stained glass and because it rained during filming, the glass had to be painted over and over again. The use of equipment on the set resulted in the glass getting chipped and that had to be touched up over and over again. This set used over 1.2 lakh pieces of stained glass and was cost around Rs 3 crore.
3. Over 700 lightmen were a part of the crew
At the time, a film’s set usually had two or three generators for power but on Devdas, a record 42 generators were used and that was because of the number of lights that were required for the film. Cinematographer Binod Pradhan used 2500 lights which needed over 700 lightmen, and that resulted in the film’s awe-inspiring visuals.
4. Every outfit worn by Madhuri Dixit cost approximately Rs 15 lakh
Designed by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Madhuri Dixit’s outfits in the film were nothing short of exquisite. It was widely reported at the time that every ensemble worn by Dixit cost approximately Rs 15 lakh. A ghaghra worn by the actor in the song ‘Kahe Chhed Cheed Mohe’ weighed around 30 kgs and since she had to dance in it, it proved to be quite a challenge. The outfit was later replaced by a lighter one, which too was around 16 kgs. Another costume worn by Dixit cost around 10 kgs and was completed in two months by artisans.
5. Aishwarya Rai had a wardrobe of 600 sarees for the film
Designer Neeta Lulla and director Bhansali shopped for around 600 sarees from Kolkata and thus, the look of Paro was born. Different sarees were mixed to create new looks for her character and a new style of draping those sarees was created by Lulla that took approximately three hours every day. While a traditional saree in 6 metres, sarees created for Paro were 8-9 metres to create a grand effect.
6. The film’s music was created over a span of two years
Ismail Darbar created the iconic songs of the film but it took two years for the music of this film to be completed. Every song’s recording lasted around 10 days and then it was mixed 8-9 times. Darbar and Bhansali had many tiffs during this period but they resolved their differences later. One of the lines from ‘Dola Re Dola’ was changed by Nusrat Badr at the final mixing stage and this raised the cost even further.
7. Devdas was the highest grosser of the year
In 2002, Devdas was the top-earner of the year minting Rs 41.66 crore on the domestic market, which was a huge deal in those days. The second film that earned the most this year was Raaz, earning Rs 21.46 crore. Apart from its domestic earnings, Devdas had a gala time in the overseas market as well since it had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The film’s music rights sold for a whopping Rs 12.5 crore.