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|August 27, 2001||
'I approached Shah Rukh and Abhishek for Lagaan'
He has become the hotshot director in the industry and justifiably so.
Ashutosh Gowariker's talent has not ever been in doubt. But luck did not favor him during the making of his earlier two films. However, Lagaan has a different story to tell, even though a lot of the credit went to perfectionist Aamir Khan.
Ashutosh Gowariker does a post mortem of the film.
Do you feel a little resentment that a lot of credit is going to Aamir Khan?
No, not really. See he's a huge star not only in terms of popularity, but also in terms of talent and popularity.
Besides, this is his first home production. It's obvious that a lot of attention is going to get diverted there, which is fine, because ultimately the very fact that Aamir produced the film has helped me to make the film exactly as I wanted to.
He gave me free rein. If I wanted 10,000 people for the climax, he gave me 10,000 people. There were no questions asked. There were no curbs on creativity. So whatever name he gets, the film gets too. And ultimately, I get it.
Is it true that you wanted to cast Nandita Das, but she refused to do the film?
In fact, she was very keen to do the film! We auditioned her but found that she looked too old for the role. So we didn't cast her.
How happy were you with Gracy Singh?
You had thought of casting Shah Rukh in the role. Would he have suited the role?
Yes. But he would have made a different kind of Bhuvan.
See Bhuvan's definitions change -- as does the script. It's like a paradigm shift. Every actor imparts his personality to a character -- the moment he does something, the character undergoes a bit of change. And when he does it, everything around him changes.
So obviously Shah Rukh would have played it differently.
How did Shah Rukh react to the film?
He loved it! In fact, Shah Rukh said that Aamir was the best thing about the film. He said that the belief that Aamir brought to the character of Bhuvan was much stronger than anyone else could have imparted.
Who else did you consider for Bhuvan's role?
Besides Shah Rukh, I approached Abhishek Bachchan.
He loved the film, but when I had gone to him with my proposal they were planning to launch him with JP Dutta -- it was a career move they had to make. I think they were right in those circumstances. If he had done this, it would've become his launch film. I think he would've played it differently too.
You've just won an audiences' award for Lagaan...
Yes, at the Lucarno film festival. This award is the audiences' selection and it is quite amazing that French, Italian and German people are willing to sit through a three hour 40 minute film to watch cricket, without any idea of the game. If you speak of the Americans, you can say they have an equivalent called baseball. But these people are completely at sea about it. So in their case, the response and applause was tremendous.
What awards are you expecting this year?
I'm not thinking of awards right now, but how to get people all over the world to see the film. Through the Lucarno festival, we have achieved an interest in France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Netherlands and Portugal -- countries, which don't see Hindi films at all!
Even the normal films, which release in the UK and USA, don't release in these countries. It's great to have our film releasing in these countries.
How did you ensure this new viewership?
We either make promos, which are subtitled, or strike a deal through Sony with the different distributors.
For example in Italy, if you release a film like this, it cannot be subtitled -- it has to be dubbed in Italian. This is done by the distributor. Of course, we have to ensure that it's done properly.
So awards are not in my priority list, though they are important. There is a different satisfaction when a lot of people see your film.
Coming to the film, didn't you feel that the last commentary where you proclaim that Elizabeth returns home to a life of spinsterhood was a bit unbelievable, because nowhere is Aamir shown as responding to her or indeed being in an intense relationship even with Gracy?
True, but that was deliberate. I didn't want to deviate from the hero's angst with the British rule. It shouldn't have looked that the country was reeling, and this hero is too involved with his love affair.
If you recall I ended the film with a heavy duty line which said 'that even after such a historical victory, Bhuvan's name was lost in the pages of history'. This was deliberate, so that the audience wonders whether it was fact or fiction that they were viewing. The ambiguity was deliberate.
But you are right -- the Italian, French, German and the British audiences react to that line very intensely!
So what now?
I'm still busy with the film and am working on a new script.
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