World biz and more as seen from India

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lagaan - An institution in itself; but an exception nevertheless :(

Nicely written. You are right, havoc. The production houses in India lack professionalism. In the indian film industry, most films are on the mercy of the whims of the director who prides himself on writing lines for his stars (nobody is an actor in India... they are all stars) on the eve of the shooting.

Films like Lagaan are a case study on how a film should be made. The pre-production was to be shot in one schedule so that the shoot would wind up before the monsoons. (All those who've seen lagaan would know why). A bounded script was provided to every person who was involved in the making of the film. Every actor was chosen after a tedious audition process.

The attention to details woulld have made Stanley Kubrick proud. The elephant which made a guest appearence for a few seconds during the fag end of the match was also chosen on various parameters. The entire cast of british actors was authentic. A british agent was appointed and the director chose the english team not only on the basis of acting but also on how well they could wield their bats and how believable their bowling action was. The producer of the film, Mr. Aamir Khan who also was the lead actor was skeptical about the two british actors that Mr. Gowarikar had chosen. Aamir Khan, who is famous for being a perfectionist relieved the actors from the film before the shoot began; but paid the requisite promised amount to the actors reasoning that a verbal agreement is a contract in India.

The village was recreated on a barren land spreading hundreds of acres and the characters playing different roles from diverse castes were asked to live in their respective huts to get a "feel" of their character and hence bring something new to the table.

Ashutosh Gowarikar was fresh from his two doomed ventures, Baazi and I can't even recollect the other. But he secluded himself to a lonely place far away from civilisation where only a pot of coffee kept him company for six months. The result - A 135 page script with detailed study of different camera angles.

Lagaan was the face of the indian film industry at various film festivals throughout the world. Even in countries like Switzerland, people evinced interest to unparalled levels. A scene where Paul Blackthrone, the british ruler challenges the perceived country bumpkin, Bhuvan to enter the maidaan and fight the british raj in a game of cricket, the result of which would decide the fate of the village that is ridden with debts connected with an audience which was far away from India. The entire crowd at the screening understood the poignancy of the scene and started whispering aloud, "Accept the bet, accept the bet" and when the camera panned on Bhuvans eyes as he thought out aloud, "sarat manzoor hai" (i accept the bet), the entire audience erupted in anticipation of an exciting feature film.

A total of 10000 villagers were arranged to visit the sets so that the crowd noise and the participation of the villagers could be filmed.

The cast assembled at sharp 5:00 am everyday and boarded a bus which would take them 50 Km. into the expanse of the brown soil. You show up at 5:01 and you were too late. When Aamir Khan was left behind on the second day for having missed the deadline by 2 minutes, it set the tone for the entire team.

I expected things to get better with time. But such examples are few and far between. We have a long way to go in acknowledging the essence of cinema. "We'll get there", is a refrain of the patrons of the film industry, but I'm afraid, we are moving towards an era where creativity in movies is getting relegated for the want of commercial success. If David Dhavan's 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi' was announced as a super hit fot the year 2004-05, I am not very optimistic about the Indian film industry's capability to woo the audience with films with more meat in them.