JULY 2001- Contents

Indo-Pak Focus
50Year Photo Retrospective

The 'People' Effort

Agra Summit- the happier moments

Begum Sehba Musharraf's time in India

Cuisine Diplomacy

Open Letter to the General and the PM

Indo-Pak Reconciliation School

Kiran Bedi's screen debut 

Fashion & Lifestyle
By the Young, for the Young

Fashion Graduates - India

Pakistan School of Fashion Design

Adopting Historic sites

Benoy Behl- documenting
India's ancient art

Preventive Medicine - How it

Aamir Khan - an interview

Adnan Sami

'United for Gujarat' - the first South Asian concert'

Travel & Adventure
Dr. Kamal Vilku -India's first lady in Antarctica

Speaking Stones - Heritage
Sites in India


Editor's Note


the craft shop

the print gallery




the-south-asian.com                               July  2001

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Aamir Khan


'Lagaan' - the surprise of the year!


Sanjeeb Mukherjee

Lagaan-aamir.jpg (25549 bytes) Lagaan-aamir_and_gracy.jpg (53420 bytes) lagaan-_aamir_and_brit_actress.jpg (31174 bytes)
L-R: Aamir Khan, with Gracy Singh, and 


"Whatever I do, I do with passion. I am like Sachin Tendulkar who goes out to play with an idea of making every innings a memorable one for the spectators. I try and do my movies in the same spirit." - Aamir Khan

It has silenced all critics who are blinking in disbelief. Cinema halls have not seen such spontaneous applause in years. Lagaan's unprecedented success has taken everyone by surprise. Most cinema halls across the country are displaying 'House Full' boards---a rarity in these days of video piracy.

The film is fast turning out to be one of the biggest hits of the year--if not the decade. But Aamir Khan is non-challant. " I was very confident of what we were offering. The positive reaction doesn't surprise me."

Set in 1893, in a small farming village in central India, Lagaan was shot on location in Bhuj (Gujarat). Produced at a staggering Rs. 25 crores, this three hour forty-two minute film is a visual treat. The unusual story is a refreshing change from the usual run-of-the-mill assembly-line production that  Bollywood unleashes relentlessly on the audience. 

" It's been back-breaking work but very satisfying and productive," says Aamir in this exclusive interview…


How was an unusual film like Lagaan conceived?

A. It was actually the dream venture of director Ashutosh Gowariker. He had been thinking about making a film on an unusual subject for some time before he approached me. I got totally taken in by the story. So, Lagaan is his brainchild not mine. It is an out and out period film but with no resemblance to any incident in history.

Period films have seldom done well in India. Were you not nervous before the release of the film?

A. We were very confident of what we were offering. It's a very intense story and has a range of human emotions. Though it has a period setting, we decided that it would essentially be a commercial film. However, some scenes and sets give the movie a very authentic and arty touch.

Did you take a  risk with the language ?

A. Not really. The language used in the movie had to be essentially one that the audience understood easily. The end product of our long discussion over this issue was a dilution of many languages. We have used Awadhi, while in others the spoken language is a mixture of Braj Bhasha and Purbi. But the audiences are having no problems.

How did you manage the mammoth tasks of acting and producing at the same time?

A. It was backbreaking but very satisfying and productive work. The film required a lot of pre-planning, which took up the best part of a year. Out of this time, I spent nearly ten months going over the production aspect and the last two months to perfecting my role.

Did you do some special preparation for the role?

A. Absolutely. I do that for every single role that I take up. Initially I had actually thought of visiting a village and spending some time with the people there, to get a first hand experience of village life. But due to immense workload, I had to drop all those plans and practice at home.

Can you recount some of your experiences while producing this film?

A. The task was definitely gigantic. It involved managing the requirements of nearly 300 people for six months. The shooting was done in Bhuj but there was no good hotel there. We then had to hire a newly constructed apartment building and furnish it completely for our team. Then security had to be organized and a special housekeeping team had to be flown in to look after the needs of everyone. So along with producing and acting, I was managing what had become a kind of five star hotel.

Where did you get the ancient tools and equipment that has been depicted in the movie?

A. Most of it was lent to us by local villagers. Initially they did not want to part with their implements but after much coaxing, gave in gracefully. However, we did have to travel to different parts of the country to collect the musical instruments used in that day and age.

What prompted you to become the producer of the film?

A. When Ashutosh Gowitkar related the script to me, I instantly made up my mind to work in this film. However, I also knew that the movie would not reach its potential unless a producer could adequately back it without cutting any corners. It was then that I decided to do something that I had wanted to do for some time now - start my own production house. The unique storyline and the fresh theme were added inspirations for producing the movie.

Have you always been inclined towards production?

A. Not really. Though it was a thought that had occurred to me, I also know the problems that go with it. Remember, I come from a family of film-makers and have known the kind of stress that producers face. I was not entirely willing to go through the same stress, but when Ashutosh narrated the final script to me, I felt inspired. If the script could bring out so many emotions in me then it would do the same for all the viewers. So, I decided to produce the film myself and launch my production company.

Now that you have a banner of your own, what kind of movies are you planning?

A. First of all, I do not intend to star in every movie that Aamir Khan Productions takes up. Next, I want to make films that have some kind of substance in them. I refuse to produce movies that have a vague script or a stereotypical plot.

You have played a range of roles from a schoolboy in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar to a foster father in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, to a driver in Raja Hindustani and a villager in Lagaan. Doesn't it all confuse you?

A.  No it doesn't. Whatever I do, I do with passion. I am like Sachin Tendulkar who goes out to play with an idea of making every innings a memorable one for the spectators. I try and do my movies in the same spirit.

What's the secret of your enduring appeal for over a decade now?

A. I am not in a position to answer that. Ask the audience and they'll tell you. As far as I am concerned, I usually do one role at a time and I like to go into the character's behaviour pattern, his mannerisms. Would he be chewing gum or would he be chewing a paan? Should he be wearing designer clothes or a dhoti? It's very important for me to get under the skin of a character. As an actor you have to be honest to your art.



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