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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hrithik-Aishwarya fame will help: Ashutosh Gowariker

He had a directorial life before. But it's with Lagaan followed by Swades that Ashutosh Gowariker has acquired the reputation of being one of the most influential and socially awakened filmmakers of our times.

With his new epic Jodhaa-Akbar he goes into the historic alliance between a Mughal Emperor and his Rajput wife with much diligence and passion. Gowariker talks about the film with Subhash K Jha.

After Lagaan, you return to a period film in Jodhaa-Akbar?
You might say that. But I call Lagaan a period film. Jodhaa-Akbar is to me a historical.Anything after 1857 is a period film for me. Anything before that is a historical. Jodhaa-Akbar is certainly not a costume drama.

It isn't set in a never-never land. I'd call Mughal-e-Azam a historical though its focus was different from mine. I feel if today we make a story about the past it must be co-related to the present.

And Jodha-Akbar is as relevant to present times as arranged marriages. Jodha and Akbar shared a perfect arranged marriage. I was fascinated by how their relationship must have grown after marriage.

There was no reference in any books about what happened between them. I've taken extreme care to make sure viewers believe in the relationship.

How much have you stressed the religious different between Jodha and Akbar?
It's important but not stressed in my film. Let's not forget, Akbar's marriage to Jodhabai was no common occurrence.

It had a nationwide reverberation 450 years ago when society was far more conservative. How did their marriage affect those times? That's a question relevant even today. But I'm not jingoistic in my treatment.

Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan have very contemporary personalities?
That won't be a problem. The audience will come in and forget everything about Hrithik and Aishwarya. I've no fear of that. The two are brilliant Ultimately the audience will be watching not the stars but the two characters that they play.

Hrithik-Aishwarya's pairing is incredible. They're extremely charismatic and good-looking. They were a huge success in the contemporary Dhoom 2. That can only help my film, not harm it.

What audiences will see in my film are Jodha and Akbar. At least that's what I've tried to ensure through their looks, body language and behaviour. I wanted to make my historical as believable as I'd like to see it being.

Every element big or small, from the texture of the clothes to the sets, d├ęcor, dialogues and the protocol, even the incidental sounds of birds and animals, they all had to be just right for me.

I'm tired of filmmakers wondering where those good old days have gone. I wanted to reclaim those days. It took me two years of pre-production before I got into my first shot..

Is this the most difficult you've made?
It is. But the process has been so enjoyable I didn't mind the toil. My crew made the process of creation very interesting. Just working hard isn't a virtue. Otherwise I should not make a film. And I definitely shouldn't make a historical.

Film analysts feel history has no relevance for today's average youngster?
I agree. Even as a child myself historical films never interested me. But when I saw Mughal-e-Azam on television I connected to it because it was a story of lovers separated by parental opposition. That the parents were historical figures was incidental.

I feel the story has to be connectable to the audience. Hyder Ali who wrote Jodha-Abkar told me, 'In Mughal-e-Azam the focus was so much on Salim and Anarkali nobody asked a fundamental question.

How did Akbar come to marry Jodhabhai in spite of their religious and cultural divide? I immediately reacted to their alliance. I saw an interesting story there that needed to be told.

As for the youngsters, I had one rule of connectivity in my range of vision. Any word or dialogue that I didn't understand in Urdu, I kept out.

I've no interest in impressing audiences with my knowledge of Urdu, Hindi or even literature. I feel literature is for the books, and that's where it should stay. I needed to reach out to the masses.

So is Jodha-Akbar kitsch?
No. I've referred to literature and academia. But the Akbar-nama was in Pharsi. It doesn't mean I'd use Pharsi in my film. I want Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bengal to understand the film. I'm dubbing the film into Telugu and Tamil.

Each language has its own regality and I'm going by the individual regality of the province. I had one vision before me when I started making this film. It was the world of the Amar Chitra Katha. I've grown up on that world.

Are you happy with the end-product?
Oh it has been tremendously enriching. So far the Mughal period was part of textbooks. I always wondered about the battles and the durbar intrigue.

The mughal period was known for its lavishness, so much so that studio bosses in Hollywood from the golden period were not called movie czars or movie nawabs. They were called movie moghuls.

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