Aishwarya Rai’s 600 saris, Rs 15 lakh outfits for Madhuri Dixit: as Devdas turns 19, revisiting one of India’s most expensive films

Sanjay Leela Bhansali Devdas’ magnum opus was released 19 years ago. It is with this film that we officially entered the opulent universe of the director who spared no effort to make 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 grand style.

Along with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, Devdas was one of the most expensive films Hindi cinema had seen so far. The effect of his meticulously planned costumes was such that they dictated Indian fashion for some time. Huge sets that look like museums may be the mainstay of a Bhansali film today, but back then it left audiences’ jaws on the floor.

As the Bhansali epic turns 19, here is a glimpse of what presided over its creation.


1. The most expensive Hindi film, until 2002


At the time of Devdas’ release, it was the most expensive Hindi film ever made. At a cost of around Rs 50 crore, Devdas was a gigantic project. The producer of the film Bharat Shah was arrested in 2001 after an investigation which revealed that one of his films had been financed by the underworld. At that time, Devdas was still in production and the future of the film was in jeopardy.

2. The sets cost Rs 20 crore


19-year-old devdas

The film’s intricate sets played a huge role in its rising cost, and these stayed in place for around 7-9 months. The most expensive set was the Chandramukhi kotha which cost around Rs 12 crore. The whole of Paro’s house was created using stained glass and as it rained during filming the glass had to be repainted over and over again. Using equipment on the set resulted in chipping of the glass and it had to be touched up over and over again. This set used over 1.2 lakh of stained glass and cost around Rs 3 crore.

3. More than 700 lightmen were part of the crew

devdas budget

Back then, a film set usually had two or three generators for electricity, but on Devdas a record 42 generators were used and this was due to the number of lights needed for the film. Cinematographer Binod Pradhan used 2,500 lights which required over 700 lights resulting in some impressive visuals for the film.

4. Each outfit worn by Madhuri Dixit costs around Rs 15 lakh

devda costumes

Designed by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Madhuri Dixit’s outfits in the film were simply exquisite. It was widely reported at the time that each set worn by Dixit cost around Rs 15 lakh. A ghaghra worn by the actor in the song ‘Kahe Chhed Cheed Mohe’ weighed around 30kg and since she had to dance in it, it turned out to be quite a challenge. The outfit was later replaced with a lighter one, which also weighed around 16kg. Another costume worn by Dixit cost around 10kg and was completed in two months by artisans.

5. Aishwarya Rai had a wardrobe of 600 saris for the movie

aishwarya rai devdas

Designer Neeta Lulla and Director Bhansali bought around 600 Kolkata saris and thus, Paro’s look was born. Different sarees were mixed together to create new looks for her character and a new style of draping these sarees was created by Lulla which took around three hours a day. While a traditional 6 yard saree, the sarees created for Paro measured 8-9 yards to create a grand effect.

6. The soundtrack for the film was created over a period of two years.

devdas music

Ismail Darbar created the iconic songs for the film but it took two years for the music for this film to be completed. Recording of each song took about 10 days, then it was mixed 8-9 times. Darbar and Bhansali had many disputes during this period, but they resolved their differences later. One of the lines of ‘Dola Re Dola’ was modified by Nusrat Badr during the final mixing phase, which further increased the cost.

7. Devdas was the biggest income of the year

devdas at the box office

In 2002, Devdas was the best earner of the year by hitting Rs 41.66 crore in the domestic market, which was a huge deal at the time. The second highest-earning film this year was Raaz, earning Rs 21.46 crore. Besides his domestic income, Devdas has also had gala time in the overseas market since its Cannes Film Festival premiere. Music rights to the film sold for a whopping Rs 12.5 crore.

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