Set in 1890 during the British rule, Aamir Khan's first production LAGAAN is not the run-of-the-mill patriotism spewing melodrama. Wait, the film has nothing to do with the struggle for Independence. While there are a few mentions of the struggle, the story revolves around a small village in central India, which is far removed from the rest of the country. The perfectionist that he is, Aamir has given a taste of his working to the locals of Bhuj too. He has cast local artistes in the film to give the film an authentic flavour. In fact, not many are aware, Aamir conducted auditions before confirming them. The idea is to make the film look as realistic as possible. Therefore, the language used is a form of Avadhi, though it's not purely that. The set erected in Bhuj itself is a masterpiece. Created from scratch, it has been constructed as per instructions of the locals under the supervision of art director Nitin Desai and is a replica of a village in those times. You may find this amusing, Aamir asked the villagers to build the houses as they would build them for themselves. Even the bullock carts used in the film have been around for over hundered years. All this to maintain the authentic look that the story demands! Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar, who had earlier directed PEHLA NASHA and BAAZI, LAGAAN should prove to be the turning point in Ashu's career. Aamir's aim was to make a start-to-finish project. Little wonder then, he's cast small-time artistes and signed contracts with them to be at his disposal. The cast of LAGAAN is a mix of Indian and British actors, led by Aamir in the main role with TV actress Gracy Singh (of AMANAT fame) playing the Indian female lead and renamed Gauri. Aamir wants to keep Gracy under cover and no snaps of her would be distributed/released before the release of the film. British actress Raechel is the other female lead. The film also has over twenty characters in the cast, which includes the likes of Raghuveer Yadav, Zutshi and many other stage and television artists. Aamir's even roped in a Canadian make-up artist (who worked with him on Deepa Mehta's 1947) for LAGAAN. The entire film is being shot in the Kutch region, in and around the city of Bhuj. Apparently, Aamir's hospitality is first-rate with eleborate lunches and nashtas for the entire crew. Somebody even commented that they were so used to it that it would be difficult to adjust to a normal lifestyle back in Mumbai. And to beat the unrelenting heat, Aamir saw to it that each cast member had an umbrella to shelter them. And as for the draught... well, there certainly isn't one on the LAGAAN sets, with the actor having arranged for vast amounts of mineral water. The crew also had the vital services of local snake catchers and 24-hour medical aid available to them. LAGAAN is scheduled for release in Diwali this year. Whether it fares well at the box-office or not, it's too early to tell, but with a support team of A.R. Rahman, Javed Akhtar, Bhanu Athaiya (costumes), Saroj Khan and Nitin Desai, seems like Aamir Khan has the right formula for success! By Taran Adarsh (Taran is the editor of Trade Guide and writes for IndiaFM)
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