After 'Jodhaa-Akbar' I wanted to do something humorous: Ashutosh Gowariker

Mumbai, May 23 (IANS) "Lagaan", "Swades", "Jodhaa-Akbar"... After three intense films, Ashutosh Gowariker is ready to get into a light frothy romance that he says requires "no research".

"What's Your Rashi?", which will star Priyanka Chopra and Harman Baweja, takes him "far away" from his earlier three films, says Gowariker.

"In 'What's Your Rashi?' I don't have to go into historical details. But a good comedy is a challenge of its own. The process of arriving at the humour is extremely difficult," says the acclaimed director in an exclusive interview to IANS.

He says he knew he wanted to make a romantic comedy after "Jodhaa-Akbar" and his ideals were middle of the road films like Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life", Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Chupke Chupke" and Basu Chatterjee's "Baaton Baaton Mein".

Gowariker chose Harman after he saw the rushes of "Love Story 2050". "He turned out to be fantastic," he says.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: How come this sudden announcement about a film with Harman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra?

A: It wasn't supposed to come out. I don't know how the news leaked out, and wrong news. People said it was based on a play. Actually it's based on a novel. It's a book called "Kimball Ravenswood" by Madhu Rye. It takes me far away from my last three films.

Q: But those three films were as far removed from one another as possible?

A: They were. "Lagaan", "Swades" and "Jodhaa-Akbar" had the element of drama common to them. "What's Your Rashi?" is a light frothy romantic comedy. I've never done one of those before. After 10 years and three films that required me to do rigorous research at last I'm doing a film that requires no research.

Q: But surely you had a team to do research on those projects?

A: No, I like to do it on my own. Only when I do the research am I able to absorb and understand the subject. In "What's Your Rashi?" I don't have to go into historical details. But a good comedy is a challenge of its own. The process of arriving at the humour is extremely difficult.

Q: Weren't you supposed to do another film with Hrithik (Roshan) after "Jodhaa-Akbar"?

A: I am extremely keen. But right now he's extremely busy with his home productions. I've a subject for him which I'll do later. After "Jodhaa-Akbar", I was sure I wanted to do something non-historical light and fun. And I knew I wanted to make a romantic comedy. But I didn't know which script.

Q: What kind of romantic comedy are you talking about?

A: I'm thinking of those middle-of-the-road films by Frank Capra, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee like "It's A Wonderful Life", "Chupke Chupke" and "Baaton Baaton Mein".

Q: How and why Harman and Priyanka?

A: When I saw Harman in his trailers of "Love Story 2050" I requested his father to show me the rushes. He turned out to be fantastic. He's a superb actor. I was confirmed in my belief that he's the best person for the part. Harman came into the picture first. Then I signed Priyanka. I'm very impressed by "Love Story 2050". It breaks the mould, like "Krrish". If a person flies it was always said, 'Yeh Hanumanjee ki kripa hai'. If a person travels in time it's always reincarnation. Not in "Krrish" and "Love Story 2050". It's a straight sci-fi film. A genre we're scared to attempt.

Q: Isn't there a risk of people saying it's gimmicky casting?

A: I always go by my hunch. When I cast Hrithik in "Jodhaa-Akbar" I had heard the same complaints. 'Hrithik as Akbar? What's wrong with you? You shouldn't make a historical, and that too with Hrithik.' Earlier during "Lagaan" people thought I had gone mad getting Aamir to wear a dhoti. I'm sure Harman will be absolutely correct for the part.

Q: So are you taking this casting to be a challenge?

A: The challenge for me is the script. The actors come later. For the past two months I've been in a fragile state of mind wondering what I'd make next. I was completely jittery. Now that I've made up my mind to make "What's Your Rashi?" and my two protagonists Harman and Priyanka are in place, the rest will just follow smoothly.

Q: Are you anxious?

A: No, relieved. You'll be surprised to know I started "Swades" immediately after "Lagaan" and "Jodhaa-Akbar" right after "Swades". So there's no prolonged period of turmoil for me. Only the research in the earlier films took longer. Since "What's Your Rashi?" has no research I can start immediately.

Q: Any changes from book to film?

A: Whatever is required to make it cinematic. There'd be songs. I've bought the rights from the author. I'll be co-writing the script with a colleague, Naushil Mehta. But I won't be changing the basics.

Q: So I can read the book and know the entire plot of your film?

A: (straightfaced) I've bought every available copy of the novel. You'll just have to wait for the film. No, I'm only kidding.

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