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|January 20, 2000||
'Aamir wants to make an international film'
Tahir Hussain, producer and actor Aamir Khan's father, was in Bhuj for the mahurat of Lagaan, which is Aamir Khan's first film as a producer. Here, in an exclusive, Tahir Hussain gives a first person account of the occasion.
We arrived in Bhuj in a Jet Airways aircraft which landed at the airforce airport. From there, it took us about 45 minutes by car to reach the location. Aamir and the others were already at the Champaner village which has been created especially for the film.
The entire cast and crew are staying in a multistoreyed building called Sahaj Anand Towers, which has now been converted into a five-star hotel. The unit has leased it for 11 months. All the rooms have telephone connections, attached bathrooms and other such facilities. There's security as well, which was arranged in Bhuj itself. On the ground floor is a huge dining room. They've hired Limousine buses and about 35 cars for commuting to the shooting location.
When we reached the location, we saw that the area, which used to be a jungle before, had been cleared to build the village. There are about 500 huts, complete with thatched roofs, cow-dung and all that goes with a village. There is a temple built on elevated land and a central ground for festivities and ceremonies
The mahurat, held in the morning, was attended by a number of dignitaries from Bhuj such as military officers and commissioners. Aamir, his wife Reena, their kids Junaid and Aira were there, as were Reena's parents. Also present were Raj Zutshi (who plays a Muslim boy in the film), Raghuvir Yadav, Suhasini Mulay, Akhilendra Mishra, Vallabh Vyas, Ronit Roy, Raju Khan, A K Hangal and Gracy Singh, the heroine.
A R Rahman came for two days, along with Jhamu Sughand. Rahman, who had accompanied us from Bombay's Santacruz airport, was fasting because it was Ramzan. It was nice to see him let his hair down and mingle with the crowd, because otherwise, he is very shy. Five of the songs have already been recorded and now I hear that Lataji (Mangeshkar) is going to record two more songs for Lagaan and is leaving for Madras to do so.
Aamir was also fasting. On the day of the mahurat, they got up early and did the sairi. Rahman left after the mahurat, while we left the next day.
The first shot was filmed on Suhasini Mulay. Following this, there was a small get-together where snacks were served. At the location, a huge shamiana was put up for everyone could keep their bags, eat and freshen up. The day was rather cold, but it was also brilliant. Everyone was in a jovial mood. But the person who stole the show that day was Aamir's little daughter, Aira.
The sets have been designed by Nitin Desai, the camera is being wielded by Anil Mehta and the clothes are by Bhanu Athaiya. The Oscar-winning designer, who was present for the mahurat, has been hired especially because it is a period film set in the 1890s. The whole show was organised by Reena who is looking after every department of the film.
She has worked hard to make sure that everyone is comfortable over there. She has returned to Bombay now as she has to take care of certain things from here -- like coordinating the departures of some other artistes who are going to Bhuj. Then, about 50 artistes, who comprise the British regiment in the film, will be coming from London.
Aamir's secretary, Ashish Tharthare, is the production chief -- he's been working very hard to get things just right. They've called a man from Delhi who is looking after the catering arrangements.
The huge village that has been created is just one of the seven or eight locations to be used. Their next destination is the polo ground of the royal palace. Aamir has gone all out to get makeup artistes and sound recordists from abroad. His intention is to make a film of international standard and he's leaving no stone unturned to ensure it is one.
Aamir is going to be stationed in Bhuj till April, finish the film and then return.
(As told to Lata Khubchandani)
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