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November 8, 2001

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'I am not burdened by Lagaan's success'

Film director Ashutosh Gowariker, whose film Lagaan, will represent India at the prestigious Oscar awards in the Foreign Film Category, says that he is not burdened by the huge success of his film and is confident of doing even better in his next script.Lagaan

Ashutosh said that he is currently writing his next script that will, in all probability, be produced by Aamir Khan. "But, I have to complete the script first," says he. He also said that he has not let the success of Lagaan affect him. "I spent five years writing Lagaan and I would like to enjoy its success by taking the film around the globe for at least a year," the actor-director said and added that he was aware that audience expectations would be very high considering the success of Lagaan.

But, he assured that his next script would be more exciting and the audience would love it. "As a scriptwriter, I keep myself in place of the audience and see whether my story is good. This is what I learnt from the debacle of my earlier two films --Pehla Nasha and Baazi," he explained.

The failure of his earlier two films, led him to introspection, he pointed out. "I had made these films thinking that this was what the audiences like. But, thinking of myself in their place, I realised that you can't take the audience for granted and fool them," Ashutosh said. He said he was an immature film-maker at that time.Lagaan

The overwhelming response to Lagaan was 'amazing' and 'out of the world' for Ashutosh who felt that the universal theme of the film took it beyond the Indian audiences.

Lagaan received the audience award at the Berlin film festival, the director said and was overjoyed that the Europeans who do not understand anything about cricket came out happy. He said he had not planned the film on the theme of cricket and patriotism. "This would have become a calculation and my film would have lost its quality. It was a simple story about a group of people who come together to fight a common cause and win. We have heard things like 'where there is a will, there is a way' or 'try try and you will succeed' and in the film people got to see it," he added.

Ashutosh is confident that Lagaan would make it in the nomination list at the Oscars. "The competition is tough and the best will win," he said. "The story about a group of farmers playing cricket to save themselves from lagaan (tax) and beating the British in their own game was something appealing to the Americans and Europeans. There will be entries from 100 countries in the Foreign Film category and I am quite hopeful that my film will get a nomination," said the director, who is not exactly a cricket buff, but likes the game.

"It is great honour to represent the country. We have sent nominations for the film in 11 categories and I want to win all," he said in a lighter vein. When asked about the lobbying factor for securing a nomination at Oscars, he felt that even though favoritism and lobbying does take place for an award, it really does not help. "The strength of the film should be such that the jury and the people should be forced to chose your film and besides this there is a 5 per cent luck factor too," he said.

He recalled that he travelled to the interiors of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan to look for a suitable location for his screen-village Champaner. On reaching Kutch, he found the location very apt for his film. "During those days, I learnt a lot about village life and did lot of research," he said.Lagaan

When asked about the comparison between his film's success and that of Gadar, Ashutosh said, "the two films are like two batsmen - playing at 140 and 110. You cannot compare the innings except for the fact that both are centurions."

After Lagaan, Ashutosh said he got a lot of offers from different producers to direct their film, but he wanted to write his own script and direct it too.

He aims to make films that would be entertaining as well as theme oriented. "Late movie moghul V Shantaram was one such legend, who shaped generations with his socially relevant films," he said.

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