By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Oct 12 (IANS) His much-talked-about period drama "Jodhaa-Akbar" is a film that director Ashutosh Gowariker describes as a fusion of history and his imagination. He denies any resemblance with K. Asif's magnum opus "Mughal-e-Azam".
"Without explaining what I'm doing, I'll say I'm not competing with 'Mughal-e-Azam' at all. 'Jodhaa-Akbar' is not a remake of any film. I'm making my own discoveries about the central love story as seen through the eyes of history. I hope to carry the burden lightly," he said."The background is steeped in history. But the characters are mine. No one knows how Jodha or Akbar behaved. I've to imagine their romance, the palace and harem politics. I'd say 20 percent is history, 80 percent is my imagination," Gowariker added.
Talking about the lead actors, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, he said: "There's a certain royal quality to Hrithik's face and body language. As for Aishwarya, she's to me the quintessential princess - straight out of Amar Chitra Katha - the distressed princess waiting in her chamber. Though we've seen her in so many avatars, as Jodha she's something else. Hrithik and Ash are amazing together."
Q: How different is "Jodhaa-Akbar" from K. Asif's "Mughal-e-Azam"?
A: That you'll have to see. Without explaining what I'm doing, I'll say I'm not competing with "Mughal-e-Azam" at all. It's a mountain of a classic. No one can surpass it. "Jodhaa-Akbar" is not a remake of any film. I'm making my own discoveries about the central love story as seen through the eyes of history. I hope to carry the burden lightly.
Q: What made you cast Hrithik and Aishwarya as Jodha and Akbar?
A: There's a certain royal quality to Hrithik's face and body language. He's just amazing in those aspects. As for Aishwarya, she's to me the quintessential princess - straight out of Amar Chitra Katha, the distressed princess waiting in her chamber. Aishwarya has the elegance and, of course, the beauty. Calling her beautiful is an understatement. Though we've seen her in so many avatars, as Jodha she's something else. Hrithik and Ash are amazing together.
Q: What about the objections raised by the animal welfare board?
A: I've been in touch with them and I've all the required permissions with details of how many animals I'm using, and how many are livestock. I've specified in my letter that I'm using 69 elephants, 50 camels and 100 horses. Every four hours the animals are given a rest period. A member of the animal welfare board visits the sets. I wanted everything worked out on paper. But I have to know beforehand what I am not supposed to do. Suppose I'm suddenly informed that the mukhiya from "Lagaan" can't be shown smoking, I can't do much about it.
Q: Do you think the ban on showing actors smoking is a killer for filmmakers?
A: It depends. In "Jodhaa-Akbar" Emperor Humayun smoked the hookah. You can't tell me that I can't show him smoking. That's history. And I'm being allowed that.
Q: Are you using authentic jewellery of the Mughal period?
A: Yes, we're recreating the authentic jewellery of that period based on the miniature paintings of Rajasthan. Jodha and Akbar's jewellery has to look as it did in that era. Today's jewellery is cut in a different way. We had several designers on the job. And Neeta Lulla has designed the whole cast's look - Hrithik, Aishwarya and the soldiers.
Q: If you don't get the Mughal history right, the historians might clobber your film.
A: That's the first thing I did. I met a whole lot of historians. The research helped me to arrive at a place where my imagination was completely unfettered. I'm sure of one thing. I'm not making a historical document. At the end of the day "Jodhaa-Akbar" has to be a good story told in an interesting manner. I don't want to make a biopic.
The background is steeped in history. But the characters are mine. No one knows how Jodha or Akbar behaved. I've to imagine their romance, the palace and harem politics. I'd say 20 percent is history 80 percent is my imagination.
Q: Are you ready to deal with the purists?
A: When I met the eminent historian Irfan Habib of Aligarh University he heard my plot. He thought it was a fabulous idea. He told me to forget about history or else I won't be able to make my film. Then I had script sessions with the Maharani and Maharaja of Jaipur who are the direct descendents of Jodha. They did the film's mahurat at the Jaipur City Palace.
I've also met historians from Jamia Millia and Mumbai University and I've got the well-known Omar Khayyam Saharanpuri as my cultural advisor. They are experts on the subject of Akbar's own secular religious order Din-e-Ilahi.
Q: What about the Hindu-Muslim love story?
A: I don't think of my characters as religious entities. I think of them as my two protagonists whose love went beyond all considerations. I can't allow my vision to be coloured by these considerations. If in 1562, when my romance eventuates, political and religious undertones do resonate, then I won't try to stop them. But these are not my primary concerns as a filmmaker.
Q: There's a growing feeing that costume dramas don't work at the box office.
A: To me the period is not relevant. The story has to connect with me emotionally, romantically and dramatically. Besides, how many films set in the present times work? So, if I've to fail, I might as well do so while doing what I want to do.