Jodhaa Akbar more liked than Lagaan : Ashutosh

Published On: 2016-09-16

Author: Anuradha SenGupta

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Jodhaa Akbar more liked than Lagaan : Ashutosh



Source: CNN IBN 

By: Anuradha SenGupta 

Date: February 22, 2008 



A week after his epic period film Jodhaa Akbar checked into the theatres, filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker spoke to Anuradha SenGupta on the making of the film, the controversies surrounding it and what is it like being Ashutosh Gowariker, the auteur. 



Anuradha SenGupta: What is your take on the public reaction on Jodhaa Akbar so far? Are people saying better than Swades but not quite Lagaan? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No in fact they are liking it more than Lagaan and Swades. And I can see why because they are liking the romance and the love story aspect in the film. People are also liking the grandeur – the battle scenes, the elephant fight and the lavishness and scale of the film. 



Anuradha SenGupta: We have been hearing about the protests against the film. Some people are saying that there are certain inaccuracies in the film and it revolves around the fact that Jodhaa is not Akbar’s wife but his daughter-in-law according to their interpretation of history. You have been going blue in the face that the allegations are incorrect, the origins of the person are sketchy in any case and the dynasty, that she is shown to belong, has no problems with the attribution. Is there more to these protests than meets the eye? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: I think the History books are probably leading to that confusion. The more the History books, the more different names that are being attributed to Raja Bharmal’s daughter. There are several names. So when I started my research even I was quite taken aback that no historian meets eye to eye because each historian does his own interpretation and analysis and presents history. So when you have six different names going for that princess, there are at least three who call her Jodhaa Bai. And on the other hand you have someone like Satish Chandra saab who has written Medieval India, which is the book that everyone in Rajasthan is referring to. He talks about the daughter of Udai Singh, also known as Mota Raja, who was given to Jehangir. Now he mentions that her name is Jagat Gosain. I also think that there is a difference between Jodh Bai and Jodhaa Bai. So the confusion is within the History books. 



Anuradha SenGupta: So you are saying that you understand where these protests are coming from. You don’t think that maybe somewhere hidden in these protests, like some people are saying, that there is an anti Hindu-Muslim love story sentiment. You don’t think so? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No, I don’t. 



Anuradha SenGupta: You don’t think these protests are motivated by that larger protest, which nobody is articulating. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No, I don’t think so because nobody will be shy in articulating it. So here if we have a Rajput lobby that has reservations about the name, I empathise with them because I went through the same thing. At the start of the film I have given a disclaimer, which says that there are several names but I am using Jodhaa because it is the most popular name. 



Anuradha SenGupta: You have explained your stand. But do you sense the protesters – the Rajput Karni Sena – are accepting your argument?


Ashutosh Gowariker: At the moment they are not, but I am trying to explain to them again and again that…you know no way in the film has Rajput honour and dignity been disturbed. That is because as a filmmaker I have certain responsibilities and I know them very well. I in no way as a filmmaker would want to disturb any community’s honour or pride, or for that matter a woman’s pride. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Are they saying that that’s what you have done because their argument seems to be based on the historical inaccuracy issue. But hidden in that do you see them saying that you have dishonoured them? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: What they are saying is that they find it preposterous that the film is about… that if she is called Jodhaa it will seem that a father-in-law is having a romance with his daughter-in-law. And they are saying this because of the name. 



Anuradha SenGupta: What is the total material impact of all this on the fortunes of the film because we know that Rajasthan is not screening the film. We have also heard of sporadic incidents in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and even in Gurgaon, Haryana. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: I will know how much the loss is by the end of the week, but it is not economic loss anymore. For me if I think in terms of what are my gains when I make a movie I wouldn’t be making a film set in the 16th Century. I would make a nice thriller at a much cheaper budget and release it. That would give me much more returns. My main concern right now and my heartfelt desire is that the film releases in Rajasthan. 



Anuradha SenGupta: You have said that you expect the audience to be ruthless because you yourself are part of the audience and therefore ruthless. Okay I have seen your film… 


Ashutosh Gowariker: You can please be ruthless.



Anuradha SenGupta: One thing that I felt missing historically was the fact that… I am pretty sure that Emperor Akbar was a polygamist. We also know that she (Jodhaa) is taken to what is part of the harem and yet there are no other wives or concubines. Why? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Reason is because as it is the story in my hands had reached a length of three hours and 20 minutes. There are many more things in Akbar and Jodhaa’s life that I would have loved to bring to the screen but I cannot because it goes beyond the scope of the film. 



Anuradha SenGupta: The other question that I was coming to is why in three hours and 20 minutes did you not find enough space for any of the nine gems? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: The Navratnas came in much later. They formed when Akbar became much mature in age, around 40. 



Anuradha SenGupta: This is clearly when he is really coming of age, in that sense. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Yes, because whenever we say Akbar we only think of Akbar-Birbal in which he is 55 years old or we think of Mughal-e-Azam when he is 60 years old. And if we say Navratnas or his religion which he formed creatively - Din-e-Illahi, that came in when he was 55 years old. Now all of this is beyond the scope of the film. But I wanted to put in seeds of his thought process. So if you see the scene before the song Jashan-e-Bahara you have the ulemas telling him about love in heaven and he finds himself getting attracted to music. There is a questioning that has already begun in him. What interested me was that here is a love story but while telling it we must also see the making of an emperor. 



Anuradha SenGupta: A lot of people coming out of the theaters are reacting most positively to the amazing love story. For you personally as a filmmaker at some point did the film become more about Akbar, the individual, and less about Akbar and Jodhaa, the love story? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Maybe, maybe not but even if it does become about Akbar it becomes that because of Jodhaa especially when both are influencing each other by way of their backgrounds. 



Anuradha SenGupta: It’s very clear that you are an idealist. Your movies that we have seen so far, we are not talking about the first two… 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No, no don’t do that. They are my takeoff points. You can call them phase I. But I can’t remove them from my life because that phase I was very necessary for me to set up and write a Lagaan or a Swades. 



Anuradha SenGupta: With all due respect to phase I and after phase II starts there is a clear sense that Ashutosh Gowariker, the filmmaker is an idealist. You have these stories, which are very telling but you also think of what this world should be like and therefore what we could be like. Correct? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Yes. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Do you have no bones about admitting the fact that your films are about a message and a view of the world that you are trying to put out. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Be it Lagaan ( a period drama) or Swades (a social drama), I have just poured my thoughts into those films especially with regard to our world, society and our nation. I really believe that patriotism is something that we are inborn with. You don’t have to tell a child that he is an Indian and he should be proud to be one. What needs to be inculcated in us is nationalism because that is dormant in all of us. This needs to be given more lift and power. We need to make people realise how we need to work for the upliftment of our country. So for me these things are very important and if I can bring those themes in while telling an entertaining story then why not? That is because my experience of going to the movies has always been fulfilling. When I have seen a film and gone home… 



Anuradha SenGupta: …It made food for thought. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Yes, food for thought is what makes a film memorable. 



Anuradha SenGupta: A lot of filmmakers see this as a bad thing. They want to be appreciated for being an entertainer first and last sometimes. Not so with you. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No, that balance can go wrong certain times. Ultimately you are trying to put all your thoughts into one movie. And you have only one chance to get it right. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t. I obviously want entertainment to be the first aspect because without it the message cannot go too far. But sometimes you can go topsy-turvy in that. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Ashutosh Gowariker, the auteur. You have a signature style amongst other things – idealism, subtle style of storytelling and length. What is thing with length? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: I have analysed this thing myself.



Anuradha SenGupta: And we know the reasons. This one is a drama genre so it requires time to be told. Swades is documentary style. The man leaves US comes to a village, slow-paced lifestyle and so the movie needs to go with the pace. I understand that and know all your reasons for the duration. But you know what I feel? Are you hurting your film by giving it this a burden of duration and length? Because people are reacting to it negatively - but that’s not the case with just you. And, it is not a challenge as a craftsperson to make a film which is able to convey exactly what you want and yet not feel long? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: I am working towards that. I must tell you that it’s all about a personality. A filmmaker’s personality comes through in his movies. I am someone who is very calm and I like to analyse a lot. I like to mull over things before I arrive at a decision. I think these are three of the things, I could say, get translated in my storytelling. So if you ask me where I would be going next, I will not be jumping out with an answer. It’s a persona-driven thing. 



Anuradha SenGupta: And with it also comes the danger of, ‘I am the director, this is my style and if you care for my storytelling, you need to accept me and my style,’ correct? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No. There’s no arrogance here. I would say when I started out with Jodhaa Akbar, my ambition was to make it a 2 hour 50 minutes film. When I looked at the scope of the film, I realised I cannot bring it in because I think this kind of film needs the tehzeeb, the salaams, the duas, the announcements of an emperor coming into court. Because it is due to these that the right ambiance, the right atmosphere is created. So I decided that let me not start cutting the film because it is long. But the next reaction that I get is that the audience did not get it. 



Anuradha SenGupta: You think so? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Absolutely. I like to balance something called an intelligence audience as well as someone who needs it to be spelt out to be him/her. 



Anuradha SenGupta: In fact, all the scenes in your film which were about the setting, the political times, the social structure, all the plots which added up to that whole, seemed like Amar Chitra Katha. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: It is. You know it’s a compliment. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Though I am not sure if I meant it like that. For instance, when Jodhaa’s father decides to barter his daughter to broker peace, it’s a huge conflict. We didn’t seem to see that. We saw something like and Amar Chitra Katha storyboard. The other stories that set up the context of the Akbar-Johaa main story, seem to lack the kind of complexity which they could have had - something which perhaps an adult could have enjoyed a lot more. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: This question is, in a manner, going to break open the craft. My take off point was Amar Chitra Katha. I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha and I loved its simplicity. I want the film and the film’s message go across to every nook and corner of the nation and the world. Now a sophisticated audience might see it and feel it’s elementary. But even if it’s elementary, when you are making a film, trying to cater to a wider audience, there’s certain leeway you need to take. Like a chef, you need to make the dish palatable for everyone. That’s the style you need to communicate to maximum number of people. 



Anuradha SenGupta: It’s not necessarily your first choice? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: No. For example, I had employed the same style in Lagaan and I have applied the same style to Jodhaa Akbar. Swades was slightly more cerebral. Swades had a few moments which were for a more intelligent audience. They got it. They liked it. There’s another section which wanted that much of information by the way of dialogue. In hindsight, when they watch it now on TV, they like it. That’s because they have calmed down in their approach towards the film. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Hyder Ali and you co-wrote this film and while you did a lot of research which helped you imagine the Akbar Jodhaa story, what made you imagine this lovely human being - Akbar? You have a man who seems to respect the woman, gives her choice. In 16th century, wasn’t it a bit unimaginable? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: The first question we asked was - if Babar established Mughal rule in India, why isn’t he called great? If Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal, why isn’t he called great? Why is so special about Akbar? There must be something. That was our first take off point. All our research - the Akbarnaama, Ain-e-Akbari and every book that there is - there is not a single history book I haven’t gone through and I like to do the research myself because otherwise I don’t experience it. Based on that we have created the characters of Akbar and Jodhaa. But here I must tell you it’s 50 per cent of what we created and 50 per cent is what Hrithik Roshan has brought to the table. It’s a combination of what we created on paper and what he aligned himself with the part. - which I think is fantastic. His whole physical presence, his good looks, his sensuality, his physicality as a warrior - I find his eyes to be very truthful. And there’s a searching look in it. 



Anuradha SenGupta: We know that the Akbar Jodhaa story started getting discussed even while you were working on Swades. Has the next thought begun? 


Ashutosh Gowariker: It will not be a long film. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Thank you for being so sporting and listening to all the feedback. But when we buy the ticket we have a right to the film. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Absolutely. I buy the line Ye public hai, ye sab jaanti hai. 



Anuradha SenGupta: Thank you Ashutosh for being with us and we wish you all the best, as always. 


Ashutosh Gowariker: Thanks a lot.