Jodhaa Akbar : An Epic Romance

Published On: 2016-07-21

Author: Udita Jhunjhunwala

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Jodhaa Akbar : An Epic Romance



Source: NewIndpress.com 

Date: February 1, 2008 

By: Udita Jhunjhunwala 



Posters of Jodhaa Akbar at the entrance of Rajkamal Studios tell me I am at the right place for my meeting with the Oscar nominated director of Lagaan, Ashutosh Gowariker. When Gowariker enters the meeting room, he doesn’t settle into the green felt sofa where I sit. Instead, he steps back and remains standing in the corner of the room. Reading my quizzical expression, he says, “I have to stand because of my bad back, but you carry on.” And with that adjusts his back support belt. There’s less than two weeks to go before the release of Jodhaa Akbar. He assures there is no shift in the date now from February 15, and there’s no time left to rest anymore. 



Known for his three-hour plus films, is the Aishwarya Rai-Hrithik Roshan starrer likely to be any shorter?


Length is relative. Even a two-hour film can feel like four hours. For me length is not as important as content. And since when do audiences care about length? We sat through the three-hour-long Lord of the Rings and that didn’t even have songs — because we were transported, engrossed in another world. 



So what did it take to recreate the 16th century in the 21st century? And how much did he cheat to achieve this? 


I just applied myself to the books, architecture and costumes. I had a team including Nitin Desai (art direction), Neeta Lulla (costume) and Kiran Deohans (cinematography) who did their own deep research, along with my script, in order to make the film richer. I spent two years to write the script of the story of the arranged marriage between a Rajput princess and a Mughal prince, set in the 16th century in Amer, Agra and areas in between. That landscape and those faces were necessary for the film. We also made several visits to Amer and other palaces to absorb the royal world. Historical facts are written but there is no account of daily life. The harem, courtyards, gardens and fountains must be seen for that life to be imagined. 



Ok, so what were some of the challenges in this recreation of the 16th century? 


Creating that lifestyle was one of the greatest challenges in the making of this film. When we were unable to acquire permissions to shoot at Amer and Agra Fort due to heavy tourist traffic, art director Nitin Desai made numerous trips to Rajasthan and Agra to gather references, details and designs before constructing sections of those locations at his studio. Another challenge was working with animals. For this, I first approached the Animal Welfare Board of India. After I got the clearance from them, I chose the elephants and camels. We took a vet along to do a health check to ensure that we would have healthy animals. The vet was on the set too. 



How about sharing some of the cheats in this process of crafting a period film? 


That would be like a magician revealing the secret behind his magic trick. Anyway I don’t subscribe to terms like cinematic liberties — I have used my imagination to create what is not written. I hope it is accepted. 



The Rs 40 crore film, co-produced by Gowariker’s AGPPL and UTV, is also attracting interest for its lead pair, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan. What was the thought behind casting them? 


Aishwarya and Hrithik were my first choice. I had no Plan B. I dread the thought of a second choice. My casting decision was based on three parameters: maturity and the understanding of the actor to align to the part, physical attributes and star power. You need stars to pull through an expensive film set in a different world. 



Why this story? 


I always wanted to make a love story and I picked this one because it’s a period of history we have taken for granted. We know that Jodhaa was married to Akbar. But why and how did the alliance between a Rajput and a Mughal, between a Hindu and a Muslim, happen 450 years ago when things were much more orthodox? 



Jodhaa Akbar is being described as your ‘magnum opus’. Do you agree? 


No, I don’t. This is my epic romance, not my magnum opus. And with that, he slips out of the room to check on the next reel, having hopped from one foot to another throughout the interview.