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|February 3, 2001||
'One contribution isn't enough'
Lagaan's director Ashutosh Gowarikar pictures Bhuj the way it was when he last left it.
The Lagaan team had erected a village, Champaner, with the help of the locals, most of who were from the neighbouring villages of Kotai and Kunariya.
In addition, they acted as villagers in the film, lending it an authentic rustic flavour. In fact, whole families from the village acted where, in some cases, three generations made up a family. Miraculously, all those associated with Lagaan survived the Republic Day earthquake.
Says Gowarikar, "Bhuj was a very beautiful place with friendly and co-operative people. They worked for us as production assistants, drivers, technicians and even actors, and were very interested in what they were doing."
"When I first heard about the earthquake, I was shocked. In fact, I still am. We immediately sent our production team there to help them.
"Thankfully, all the locals who we worked with have survived. Even their families have survived. But they are homeless now. They have to migrate from Bhuj, and start their life all over again. I feel really sad that they had to leave such a beautiful place.
"But in spite of losing their homes, these people are lucky to be alive. I feel terrible about the ones who didn't survive, or worse, were trapped in the debris."
The entire Lagaan team is making a one-year commitment to help the earthquake victims. Starting with Rs 25 lakhs (Rs 2.5 million), the team will continue contributing through 2001.
"We will contribute continuously for a year, as this is an ongoing process. One contribution is not enough. Even the foreigners who acted in the film are very concerned about the earthquake. They are also doing their bit to help the victims.
"We were in Bhuj for five-and-a-half-months, with a crew of 500 people. The entire film is shot there. We chose Bhuj mainly because we didn't want any trouble during the shooting of the film. Also, the climate in Bhuj is very good.
"Last year, when we had gone there, we heard rumours that a cyclone was expected but fortunately nothing happened. It is really strange -- on one hand we are dazed and on the other we are relieved."
B Srinivas Rao, chief executive, production, just returned from Bhuj after visiting the locals on February 1. Says he, "It is a mess there with rubble and corpses everywhere. No one can enter Bhuj. People are on the streets. They need shelter. Thankfully, there are enough medical supplies.
"It wasn't that tough finding the people who worked for us. We had the contacts and addresses of some people. Of course, none of the houses survived, so tents are pitched where homes used to be. We also tracked them down through word of mouth.
"Although people are donating materials to the earthquake victims, they are not seeing whether the supplies are actually reaching the people or not. Quantities of food and medicines are rotting in Bhuj because there is no one to personally go to the villages to distribute them to the people.
Rao echoes Gowarikar's sentiments when he says, "We intend donating through the year because when I spoke to the collector and the DIG, they said that one large contribution would not really help the people. They need help till the time they are able to stand on their feet again."
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