India should be proud of Lakshya

Published On: 2012-07-23

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"This is a film that India should be proud of"


Source: Time Magazine, USA
By: Alex Perry
Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2004


Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan talks about the new film Lakshya 

With his acclaimed performance as Karan Shergill in Lakshya, Hrithik Roshan, 30, has cemented his transformation from rubber-hipped Bollywood hunk to serious actor. As the accolades began rolling in, he spoke to TIME's Alex Perry in Bombay. 

TIME: You've adopted a totally different acting style for this movie.

Roshan: The way [director] Farhan [Akhtar] has treated the characters in this film is very interesting. He's helped me grow. He has a totally different approach to acting. I went round to his house to talk about the character just before we started shooting. The meeting lasted maybe two minutes. Farhan said, "I want you to be you. Nothing more, nothing less." It's very honest. You don't project emotion, you know laugh, cry, make sure the audience understands everything completely. You're just very straight with the camera and leave the rest to the narrative and the audience's intelligence. You use parts of you. As a result, I completely identify with Karan in the first half. He's a fool, lazy. And I've been there. I've walked that path. 


TIME: How much of an example do you think Lakshya sets to the rest of Bollywood? 

Roshan: Bollywood is changing now. Performances are getting better. And the way Lakshya's made-every frame is a very proud frame-it takes our cinema to the next level. There's a lot of class in Lakshya. It's giving Bollywood a new direction. It seems more responsible, better executed. I think it's definitely going to inspire us to take the next step. 


TIME: What sort of reaction have you had? 

Roshan: It's all positive. Some people have gone completely insane about the film and have said it's the best work I've done. Which is, "Oh wow, this is so great." For me, it's always been performing, about projecting, but here I have just been myself. So it means so much more. But it's all down to the narrative. It's all very natural. I'd consider this true filmmaking. 

TIME: You sound pretty pleased. 

Roshan: This is a film that India should be proud of. It will stand its ground. A lot depends on box office success. And from the sounds of it, the opening is going to be phenomenal. The first 21 shows are all booked up across the country. If it becomes a huge success, it will change the face of Indian cinema.




"Touching the Heights


Source: Time Magazine, USA (Issue: June 28, 2004
By: Alex Perry
Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2004



Farhan Akhtar reinvents Bollywood by daring to be different 
A year ago on a set in Mumbai, a young man in worn jeans decorated with patches shaped like marijuana leaves sprawled sulkily in a director's chair and demanded again and again that Amitabh Bachchan, the godfather of Bollywood, get it right. "Cut! Cut!" yelled Farhan Akhtar, the 29-year-old veteran of one movie, before marching up to Bachchan, the 60-year-old veteran of more than 100, for an urgent discussion. The scene featured Bachchan as an Indian army colonel banging two hammers on a table off screen to simulate the jolt of an incoming Pakistani artillery round, then walking across camera to pick up a mug of tea. After two hours of adjusting camera angles, lighting and backdrop, and several more heated talks with Bachchan, Akhtar called a wrap. A year later, the movie is finally out-and Akhtar has cut Bachchan entirely from the scene, the superstar eclipsed by a tin mug that jumps and spills with the whump of the shells. "Oh God, man, that cup of tea," groans Akhtar today. "Hours, man, hours, to get it to perform." 

Lakshya-which opened last Friday everywhere from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur, London to New York-looks destined to be this year's big Bollywood blockbuster. If so, the key to its success will be the fearless and fastidious professionalism that Akhtar has brought to an industry too often doomed by technical sloppiness and a numbing lack of originality. Unusually for Bollywood, where directors often turn out five movies a year, Akhtar took more than two years to bring the script and music (both by his father, Javed) to the screen. Breaking with the norm again, Akhtar insisted on a continuous 146-day shoot so that cast and crew would focus on one project alone, instead of juggling several movies at a time, often on the same day, as is routine in the industry. And by shooting on location rather than on dodgy sets, by employing award-winning Hollywood cinematographer Christopher Popp, and by obliging the actors not to ham it up, Akhtar has produced the first mainstream Indian movie capable of holding its own against virtually any summer smash from Hollywood. 

Lakshya (which roughly translates as "aim" or "focus") follows an urban slacker (Hrithik Roshan) who joins the Indian army on a whim and winds up finding heroic purpose fighting Pakistani troops who crossed into Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1999. The tragic context of a conflict that has cost up to 70,000 lives offers ample opportunity for that staple of Bollywood film: copious melodrama. Akhtar isn't so radical as to depart from such essential ingredients of the genre: song and dance, boy meets girl, and plenty of tears are all there. But everything is deftly updated. In the first of three dance sequences, for example, Roshan puts on a display of body popping and moon walking that banishes the possibility of a self-respecting Indian male lead ever again sashaying suggestively around a pine tree. Likewise, his love interest (Preity Zinta) is an ambitious newsreader unafraid (horror!) to date other men or even (the horror! The horror!) cut her hair short. 

The movie looks different, too. Popp brilliantly captures the starkness of Ladakh, the endless dustbowl valleys and vast plains of worthless desert that form Kashmir's unforgiving battlegrounds. As for the performances, Akhtar asked for, and got, very un-Bollywood and uniformly excellent understatement. Roshan, with his self-deprecating humor and subtle emotional depth, sets a new standard for the industry. "I went round to [Akhtar's] house to talk about the character just before we started shooting," says Roshan. "The meeting lasted maybe two minutes. Farhan said, 'I want you to be you. Nothing more, nothing less.' It's very honest. You don't project emotion. You're just very straight with the camera and leave the rest to the narrative and the audience's intelligence." 

The constant grimace the characters wear in the mountains is certainly real. Akhtar took a cast and crew of 300 to Ladakh, where they worked and slept in temperatures of -10°C for two months. 

At heights of up to 5,500 meters, they endured constant breathlessness and headaches. "It adds tremendously to the atmosphere of the film," chuckles Akhtar. "Believe me, they're really in a place they don't really want to be." 

Non-Indians will find the chest-bursting patriotism of the climax a little overdone. And at 2 hours and 40 minutes, Lakshya might have benefited from some more editing. But after waiting so long for a Bollywood movie this fresh and ambitious, it's easy to forgive a few victory reels.




"Extreme situations make people pull together. I wanted viewers to see that."


Source: Time Magazine, USA (Issue: June 28, 2004)
By: Alex Perry
Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2004


Director Farhan Akhtar talks about working with stars Hrithik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan on his new movie Lakshya-and filming at 6,000 meters 

Movies: Lakshya touches the heights

Hrithik Roshan: "This is a film that India should be proud of"

Director Farhan Akhtar, 30, broke new ground with his 2001 debut Dil Chahta Hai (Do Your Thing) by ditching the sequined, hammy conventions of Bollywood with a charming and finely acted portrait of young, affluent Bombay. Now critics are acclaiming his new film Lakshya, the first Indian film ever to be released simultaneously across the world, as breathing new life into the old formula. He spoke to TIME's Alex Perry at his offices in Bombay. 

TIME: So what's Lakshya about? 

Akhtar: The basic story is the growth of this young boy in Delhi from an upper-middle-class home where there is a very strong army presence. He's an extremely confused boy at a crossroads in his life and he doesn't know which way he's going to go. He's very influenced by the people around him. I wanted to get into that because it's so true of a lot of people in India today. It was simpler before because there were fewer choices of how to spend your life. Before India had a middle class, things were a lot clearer. When I look at my father and his friends, some of them have amazing success stories, but they have always been very clear about what they wanted and what they wanted to achieve. Now I'm from a generation that's getting tired of the need to achieve while at the same time there is a severe fear of failure and tremendous pressure. As a result, people are taking a lot more time to work out what they want. 

Anyway, he joins the army on a whim thinking it's all Arnold Scharzenegger, blood, guts and action. And then he realizes the reality is very different and that it's not really his cup of tea. But eventually he gets posted to Kargil and meets other people from different parts of the country and different backgrounds, and he begins to understand the concept of commitment an responsibility, what it takes to truly give it all, and that it's the only thing up there to keep you alive and keep you sane. Then the operation starts and it transforms him. He finally finds his substance. The films is also simply about friendship, valuing friends. It's not plot heavy, but character driven. The moments in people's lives and how they come together. And that's not so common for an Indian movie. 


TIME: Nor is shooting in the Himalayas. How was that? 

Akhtar: We were shooting at between 4,000 to 6,000 meters for two months of a four and a half month shoot. Everyone was pretty excited; it's quite an adventure. The temperature was quite extreme-minus seven, minus eight-and we were spending some nights camped out in tents, an entire tent city at 5,500 meters, in very hostile terrain, just rock and blades of grass. You lose your appetite: you feel sick if you even look at food. The water in your bottle freezes. And you get weaker and weaker. We couldn't do more than seven or eight hours a day-it's just exhausting. But it adds tremendously to the atmosphere of the film. Believe me, [the actors] are really in a place they don't want to be. I didn't want to try to recreate that on a set here-it's a very different place. Extreme situations make people crazy. It makes them want to quit and pull together. And I wanted people to see that. 


TIME: It must have been a little nerve-wracking. 

Akhtar: The most nerve-wracking time I've ever had. Two days before we went, I thought, "Oh my God, do I really want to do this?" But if a director begins to slacken, it affects the whole unit, so I psyched myself up totally. And there was the weather: you only have a certain window before the clouds come in and you have to pack up and leave. So, of course, I overdid it-you're supposed to lie down for two days when you first arrive up there and I tried to run around on set-and I ended up in hospital for two weeks because of exhaustion. After that people were like, "Please, Farhan, sit in your seat and use the mike." 


TIME: Any complaints from the cast? 

Akhtar: Hrithik was there for a long time. He had to be. I mean, how do you build a set for a 5,500-meter peak? But we were very lucky. We did not have many problems. In fact, the biggest problem we had was lower down at Dehra Dun when this hail storm came out of nowhere and whacked a huge cast of 300 extras playing army cadets. 


TIME: The whole issue of Pakistani intruders in Kashmir is pretty sensitive. How have you portrayed them? 

Akhtar: The intruders are something the characters discover along the way, how the Indian army discovered them. I never wanted to get into the intruders' point of view: we know as much about them as the main protagonist of the film. When you see the Pakistani officer, he's there doing his job and wants to do his job well. They don't speculate about what should happen. They just do their job as soldiers. The film is much more about Hrithik's character than the political situation. Like Titanic was [about] a real event, but essentially it's a love story. I'm not taking a stand on how the dispute should be settled or anything like that. 


TIME: How was Hrithik? 

Akhtar: He's very good, he's done a really good job. The best thing about him is the sincerity with which he works. He really surrenders himself to what the director wants and what the script demands. You have to remember that with the initial overwhelming success that Hrithik had in Bollywood, it does get a little difficult to find your bearings. Overnight he was considered a demigod to a billion people. So he took time to find his way, but now he's fully coming into his own. 


TIME: And what about Amitabh Bachchan? 

Akhtar: He is a tremendous person, and a tremendous personality. It's very difficult to direct somebody you have been a fan of most of your life. But I always wanted to work with him. The most amazing thing is how incredibly humble he is for somebody that's that huge, you know, a superstar. He never, ever makes you feel that he is who he is. He's always there as an actor and just for you. He'll never question you. And it's a great performance. It's through his character that Hrithik learns about responsibility and commitment to his cause. When the action's all done and the objective is achieved, it's only then that we see a sense of loss and grief. 


TIME: And to round out the cast, you've got Preity Zinta. 

Akhtar: She's the catalyst for the movie. She's very focused about what she wants to do and be, which is a journalist. So, of course, they meet again when she's reporting for her news channel. 


TIME: Who are your movie heroes? 

Akhtar: From Indian movies, Guru Dutt. His approach to movies was very simple: he made movies about characters that he could identify with and that's something I believe in too. Real films about real people. And if you're doing life, it's a vast reservoir where you're never going to run out of ideas. And from the West, Robert de Niro is a very serious inspiration. He takes the most dark and random characters and makes them seem real. 


TIME: This is mainstream cinema though you're doing though, right? 

Akhtar: The main objective is to get as many people as I can to watch it. That's the most important thing to me. I want the whole world to see it. There's definitely something in there that's worth a watch. 


TIME: But at the same time, things are changing in the mainstream. 

Akhtar: It's a very exciting time in Bombay right now. It's a part of a metamorphosis. Things are getting more streamlined, more organized, more transparent, it's simpler to deal with people. There's an easing of the star system. Before it was about star power, but now it's more about the project, being a great actor rather than a big star. 


TIME: And what's next for you? 

Akhtar: I don't want to make any kind of plan. After Dil Chahta Hai, people asked me why I chose to move away from that, from something I managed to do well, and do something more serious. I want to go with whatever excites me. There's a couple of things lined up. We're producing a film, a director's debut, which looks at the role luck plays in Bollywood. And then there's Voice From the Sky, about two children in 1905 in India. Also, my sister and I wrote some of the score for Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice [starring Aishwarya Rai and releasing in the autumn.] Gurinder approached my father [Urdu poet and writer Javed Akhtar] but he was not comfortable writing in English and recommended us to her. The best part of the whole experience was working with Gurinder. She's very addictive. You always want to meet her again soon.