Everyone has been wondering if the lukewarm response to Swades has dampened the Lagaan director’s spirits.
Far from it, Ashutosh Gowariker’s next film is going to be huge historical epic.
Smiles the director, “You could say I’ve taken a historical decision to make a film called Jodha-Akbar. It’ll be a romantic musical.”
Is the decision to film the love story of the Mughal emperor Akbar and the Rajput princess Jodhabhai at all prompted by the surprise success of K.Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam last year?
“Not at all,” avers Gowariker. “Jodha-Akbar is one of the two-three scripts that I had in mind for quite a while. I finally zeroed in on this. It won’t go into the older days of the pair. It would show them in the prime of their togetherness and probably end where Mughal-e-Azam begins.”
The film would appear somewhat volatile for its Hindu-Muslim cross-religious relationship. But Gowariker hasn’t really thought of that. “I just want to dwell on a little-known facet of Indian history that hasn’t been exposed in history books, let alone on screen. I intend to appoint a research team of historians and scholars from Delhi, Lucknow, Agra and Jaipur to guide me.”
The director is going into a period film for the second time after Lagaan. “But Jodha-Akbar would be a full-on period film without props. It would be expensive. But I’m not getting into highlighting the budget and making that a USP of my project. For me the product will justify the expenses. I won’t approach the subject to splurge on lavish sets, etc. The product will justify the cost.”
Gowariker intends to produce Jodha-Akbar. He starts shooting in December 2005 and completes the opus at a stretch by April 2006. The cast will be finalized in the next two weeks. “I’ve already locked in on my leading man. He just needs to sign the deal.”
A.R Rahman and Javed Akhtar, the team who did Gowariker’s Lagaan and Swades, have been finalized for the lyrics and music.
Going back to Swades, Gowariker is at peace with its performance. “My financiers, exhibitors and distributors have got their money back. Beyond that, I can’t fight the film’s reputation of a flop. It has been exempted of entertainment tax in Delhi and Maharashtra. I’ve applied for a tax-free in other states as well. I agree it didn’t take the bumper opening that a Shah Rukh Khan film should’ve taken. We fell short in the promotions. I wrongly thought I was promoting the film aggressively. I projected the film rightly. I’m not unhappy about the film.”
What about rumours of differences with Shah Rukh Khan? “No such thing happened. There was never any problem between us. Shah Rukh and I have met after the release of Swades.”