Ashutosh Gowariker had an interesting ‘Master Class’ session, which was organized by IFTDA (Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association) and moderated by Ravi Rai. The filmmaker, whose last 2 films What’s Your Raashee and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey didn’t set the box office on fire, is still considered one of the best filmmakers around. His 2001 period film Lagaan is still one of the greatest Bollywood films ever for many.Swades and Jodhaa Akbar have been loved immensely by the majority of viewers. A masterclass with a director of the calibre of Ashutosh Gowariker was a great idea for sure and as expected, it turned out to be an enlightening and entertaining experience.
Regarding Lagaan, he said that what demotivated him was lead actor Aamir Khan refusing to do the film initially. He said, “I was wondering why he does not like my script. Then, I realized that it needs to be expanded more and needs to be fine-tuned. After doing the changes, he agreed to do the film and from there, there was nothing that dampened my spirit.”
However, he added, “I was adamant of the fact that for Bhuvan’s team, I want those actors who don’t play cricket, so that it looks natural. I knew though that Aamir plays cricket very well but I realized that he could be handled. But, this whole idea became detrimental when I wanted them to actually play the game nicely while shooting! So in the scene where they had to actually hit the ball, they just couldn’t do it!”
Having made 3 period films (Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar and the upcoming Mohenjo Daro), Ashutosh Gowariker obviously emphasized about research but had an interesting take here. He said, “I don’t hire a team for research purposes. A team can read everything and give me information. Par mujhe mehsoos karna chahiye. I have to physically go through that research. So, for Jodhaa Akbar, I had to go through both – Mughal as well as Rajput history. And even while reading Mughal history, I had to go through the works of both Abul Fazl and Badauni as both had diverse versions. I also had to read ‘Ain-i-Akbari’. When you decide to recreate a different period, you have no choice but to read everything possible. Also, you can’t decide how long will the researches last. For Lagaan, I researched for 3 years and same goes for Jodhaa Akbar. For Mohenjo Daro, I researched for one and a half years.
Ashutosh Gowariker has been an actor and have worked in many TV shows and films (he played Abhijeet in popular TV show ‘CID’ before Aditya Srivastava). A person from the audience asked him if he’d like to act in a film directed by him. Moderator Ravi Rai jumped at this point and said in a lighter vein, “He always tries to cast him in his films at first. In Jodhaa Akbar, he was confused whether to cast himself or Hrithik! Even forLagaan, when nobody was available, he thought of casting himself. Similarly, he was struggling to cast him or Shah Rukh Khan for Swades! ” As expected, the audiences laughed loudly and even Ashutosh Gowariker himself was quite amused!
Ashutosh Gowariker also revisited his fiasco with Sajid Khan during the Star Screen Awards in 2009. Ashutosh Gowariker had blasted Sajid Khan on stage for ridiculing actors in the awards ceremony. Recalling the incident, Ashutosh Gowariker said, “I love stand-up act and mimicry. I even love the comedy shows that we see on television. But the awards night is a celebration of cinema. Which means that here’s a writer who has come from Buldhana and he has slogged for 5 years in Mumbai. He happened to get this movie. And not just the film worked, but he has got an award too. When his name his announced as the winner and he climbs the stairs to reach the podium, it’s the moment of glory for him. And then on stage, he should be given a chance to thank whomever he wants to thank. He should not be told ‘Jaldi bol kyunki time limit hai.’This is unfair for the people like him are the important constituents of award nights and they only don’t get time to thank. Hence, if the comedians want to make fun of whomever they want to, including me, they must do it in their TV shows, but not in award nights.”