Haider Ali on Jodhaa Akbar

Published On: 2016-06-11

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Haider Ali on Jodhaa Akbar

Source: Mumbai Mirror
Date: November 13, 2007

The much awaited Jodhaa Akbar has been completed and is now on the threshold of release. Ashwini Gangal speaks to Shivaji Park-based story writer-cum-actor Haidar Ali, in an exclusive interview

What is your contribution to the film Jodhaa Akbar?

I did the research and wrote the story. I also worked on the screenplay along with Ashutosh Gowariker. After I did my research, Ashutosh verified it and did his own research by meeting with scholars, historians; he looked up forts, palaces, locations, etc.

How long did it take to script the film?

In a nutshell, story plus screenplay plus plot plus theme equals a script. For this film, research and scripting started in December 2001 and ended in January 2005. From 2005-2006 Ashutosh and I worked together on the screenplay. Shooting began in November 2006 and was completed in October 2007.

How did you go about doing the research for this film?

My daughter Venil and I went to many libraries including the one at St Xavier's College and Nehru Planetarium Basement. We purchased many books on Mughal and Rajputana history. We found lots of material and photocopied thousands of pages and had to read tons of books mainly about the alliance of Jodhaa with Akbar. I got help from a senior journalist from Jaipur, S N Pushp, who died a year ago. He had sent me literature from Jaipur. We also found books by 7 to 8 Hindi authors on Rajput history but only 3 to 5 of them gave relevant reference. The rest gave different views. This happens for any historical event because there are many versions to one event. Due to this we had to be selective in our research. I wanted information on the private lives of Jodhaa and Akbar and no historian had written much about their lifestyles and mindsets. So, I thought of how the political transactions must have affected them emotionally as individuals and this is how we developed the characters of Jodhaa and Akbar.


What difficulties did you encounter while researching for the film?

It was very difficult to find relevant information on Jodhaa as there were too many different views on her story. So I had a tough time deciding which track to follow and which to ignore. I didn't want any controversy, thus the development of Jodhaa's track was difficult. Akbar's track was easier because there were many small incidents that led to the big historical ones. For Jodhaa, on the other hand, there were many isolated, large events with no small events leading to those large events. Also, the chronology was more random for Jodhaa and bridging these gaps was the tough part.

All the characters are historical. Nothing is a figment of my imagination. The events, right from Akbar's birth to Jehangir's birth, are all factual. We played around with the smaller events that led to the main historical, factual events.


How was the experience of working with Ashutosh Gowariker?

It was very comfortable, as we have a good working relationship. I know him since the 1980s. We even acted in a film together - Saeed Mirza's Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. We are good friends so it was great working with him. Professionally, this is the first time I have worked with him as a writer.


Are you trying to spread a social message on Hindu-Muslim unity and religious tolerance, through this film?

The social message about Hindu-Muslim unity is inherent in the film. The name Jodhaa Akbar itself suggests Hindu-Muslim unity so just in the title our goal is achieved. But we didn't need to hammer it into audience's heads..."come and watch this film on Hindu-Muslim unity"… just by looking at the title they know what they are in for. The intension and theme of the film is very clear from the title.


The promo looks impressive. Is it intended to portray anything specific?

A promo is a kind of promotion that is meant to attract audiences. Ashutosh has made a fantastic collage of the film and has presented it very well in the promos. He has risen above the script in his presentation of the film. A promo is like a collage, which is meant to strike different chords in different kinds of audiences. For instance, some may want to watch it because of the elephant visual (fight scene between Hrithik Roshan and an elephant), some for the music, some may get attracted to it because of the patriotic dialogue "H um apne desh ko galat haathon mein nahin jaane denge". The Hindu-Muslim bit may appeal to others.


Did you interact with the big stars? How was the experience?

Yes, a song by A R Raman "Sufi Kalam" has been picturised on me. It was shot in Karjat for 10 nights and during the course of the shooting, I interacted with Hrithik Roshan. He is a very dignified, cultured, respectable and down-to-earth person. I didn't interact with Aishwarya because the two of us didn’t have any shots together. Our shoots were mainly at Karjat and Jaipur.


What are your future ventures?

I am acting in Sudhir Mishra's Khoya Khoya Chand, Aziz Mirza's 'Lucky Charm' and Neeraj Vora's Short Cut. As far as story writing goes, I am writing a narrative - memos of my late mother (Pramila) - actress of the yesteryears and the first Miss India.