Filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker feels the global attention his Oscar-nominated film “Lagaan” had garnered is something that cannot be made to order.
The feature film, which was only the third official entry from India to make the cut in the Bast Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards, completed 20 years of release on June 15. Over the past two decades, the universal appeal of the Aamir Khan-starrer has only grown.
Gowariker feels that no storyteller can craft a story aiming to reach a global platform. It has to be a story told from the heart. “Cinema cannot be made to order,” he tells IANS.
He adds: “It can be made to order only for commercial success. You can construct a script and know that you can put these elements and them some amount of success is guaranteed. That is made to order, but you cannot make to order a film that will become global in its theme. A filmmaker can write stuff, create what he wants to express through that story and then the film can find its feet, become crossover, and become international. It can’t be planned. It really needs to be heartfelt and should come from the core of your soul.”
While it was a moment of great joy for Indian cinema to have a film represent the industry on a global platform as the Oscars, the film did not win the trophy. While Gowariker accepts that the “experience of Oscars was phenomenal”, he also asserts that there was no after-effect of the glory on him.
“The experience of the Oscars was huge. We always think that we have sent our entry from India but we never consider what the other 75 countries are sending. We don’t know the competition, and we need to know the competition in order to send something that competes. Secondly, there are some kind of films that are very popular in the international cinema space and if a film doesn’t fall in that bracket, it won’t even be considered,” he explains.
He adds: “So, for a ‘Lagaan’ to go, it had that extra special thing in it. It was a sports drama, it was a period piece, it was a cross-culture film, underdogs achieving something. There were so many things that were really global. It was about cricket but nobody focused on that. They all looked at the thematic value.”
The film stars Aamir as a young man in a village of pre-Independence India who accepts a challenge of a ruthless the British officer to a game of cricket with a trained bunch of White officers. The wager is if the officers win, the villagers have to pay three times the tax, while if the villagers win the match they wouldn’t have to pay anything.
Gowariker says he knew at the scripting stage that the film was special, but never anticipated such a mammoth response in the theatres.
“I had no fear in terms of box office because I wasn’t thinking of that. When we finished scripting, I had this feeling that it was something different and if we get the right producer, it could become something exciting for audience. We already had Aamir as the lead. During the process, we had that excitement but we didn’t know then how big it would become,” he says.