His story...

Published On: 2015-12-31

Author: Subhash K Jha

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His story...


Source: Mumbai Mirror 

Date: November 28, 2006 


Ashutosh Gowariker says Jodha Akbar is 20 per cent history and 80 per cent his imagination 


What made you cast Hrithik and Aishwarya as Jodha and Akbar? 

There's a certain royal quality to Hrithik's face and body language. As for Aishwarya, to me she's the quintessential princess…straight out of Amar Chitra Katha….the distressed princess waiting in her chamber to be rescued. 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. 


What about the objections raised by the Animal Welfare Board? 

I've been in touch with them and I've all the required permission with details of how many animals and of which livestock I'm using. I've specified in my letter that I'm using 69 elephants, 50 camels and 100 horses. Every four hours the animals are allowed to rest. 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. 


Do you think the no-smoking clause is a killer for filmmakers? 

It depends. In Jodha Akbar Emperor Humayun smoked the hookah. You can't tell me I can't show him smoking. That's history and I'm being allowed to show that. 


Are you tired after the extensive researching of history? 

No no! I'm enjoying myself. I feel very excited. All the detailing was done to make sure no time was wasted when we actually started shooting. To me direction is 80 per cent on paper. 


Why did it take you so long to start shooting? 

Hydar Ali, whose story Jodha Akbar is based on, narrated it to me right after I finished Lagaan. Since then Hydar and I were working on the screenplay. I had the option to start making Jodha Akbar before Swades. But I thought this one needed much more detailing. Though Jodha Akbar took me back in time, it wasn't the same as Lagaan where I could give a free rein to my imagination. Bhuvan in Lagaan and Mohan Bhargava in Swades were my characters. Jodha and Akbar are not. 


You must be working on getting the Mughal history right, for fear of the historians coming down heavily on you? 

That's the first thing I did. I met a whole lot of historians. After Swades, Jodha Akbar just took shape effortlessly. The research helped me arrive at a place where my imagination was completely unfettered. I'm sure that I'm not making a historical document. At the end of day Jodha Akbar has to be a good story told in an interesting manner. I don't want to make a bio-pic. The background is seeped 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 per cent is history while 80 per cent is my imagination. 


Are you ready to deal with the purists? 

The eminent historian Irfan Habib of Aligarh University heard my plot and thought it was a fabulous idea. He told me to forget about history, or else I would not 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're extremely excited about the film. They did the film's mahurat at the Jaipur City Palace. I've also met historians from Jamia Milia and Mumbai University and I've got the well-known Omar Khayyam Saharanpuri as my cultural advisor. These are experts on the subject of Akbar's own secular religious order Din-e-Ilahi. 


There's a growing feeling that costume dramas don't work at the box-office? 

To me the period is not relevant. The story has to connect with me emotionally, romantically and dramatically. Besides how many of the films set in present times work? So if I've to fail, I might as well do so while doing what I want to do. 


How different is Jodha Akbar from K Asif's Mughal-e-Azam? 

You'll have to see the film to figure it out. Without trying to explain 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. Jodha Akbar is not a remake of any film. I'll just tell my story as best as possible. I want to tell an intense love story. I'm making my own discoveries about the love story as seen through the eyes of history. I hope to carry the burden lightly.