I haven’t been fanciful in depicting history: Ashutosh Gowariker

February 21st, 2008 - 9:17 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Jodhaa Akbar
(Interview)
By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Feb 21 (IANS) Filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker said he was careful in preserving Rajput pride and dignity while making the period drama “Jodhaa Akbar” starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. “I haven’t been jingoistic or fanciful in depicting history. In fact, I’ve been very careful in preserving Rajput pride and dignity,” he said.

The release of “Jodhaa Akbar” in India last week was marked by sporadic protests in Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat and Gurgaon near Delhi. Protesters alleged that Gowariker had distorted history.

Defending himself against protesters who alleged that he had taken liberties with historical accounts, Gowariker said: “I think you’ve to follow your heart. Of course, we must go back into the past, but after thorough research. I don’t think there’s any substitute for research.”

The director said he did his best to go by the book while making the film, which has yet to be released in Rajasthan.

“I consulted some of the best historians and went through the most rigorous research. And there are different names used for Akbar’s wife, Jodha being one of them. My imagination helped while describing what happened between Jodha and Akbar in the privacy of their chambers. There I had to get creative since no one knew what actually happened,” Gowariker explained.

Excerpts:

Q: Having made a film that does history proud, how do you feel about these sporadic protests?

A: You hit the nail on the head. These are sporadic incidents that appear much larger than they really are. While making the film, I did my best to go by the book. I consulted the best historians and went through the most rigorous research. And there are different names used for Akbar’s wife, Jodha being one of them. In fact, there’s a disclaimer about the Rajput queen’s name in the beginning of the film and to see that, the protestors have to see the film.

Q: Most protests in our country are premature and based on insubstantial evidence.

A: Well, I want to say to people in the country and abroad that I’ve done deep research. Even the secondary characters like Shariffuddin, Bairam Khan and Mahamanga, which some critics have found filmy, are founded in history. That climactic combat between Akbar and Shariffuddin that I’ve shown really took place.

Q: Considering the trouble, do you think filmmakers should stay away from historicals?

A: No. We must make what we’ve to make, fearless of repercussions. I think you’ve to follow your heart. Of course, we must go back into the past, but after thorough research. I don’t think there’s any substitute for research. Since we’re a multi-cultural and religious nation there’re bound to be questions about historical movies. We must be ready and equipped to handle these. I just hope more and more people come and see “Jodhaa Akbar”. The reports so far are very encouraging. What I want now is for the film to release in Rajasthan. “Jodhaa Akbar” belongs to Rajasthan. Let them see the movie.

Q: Where did your imagination come in?

A: My imagination came in while describing what happened between Jodha and Akbar in the privacy of their chambers. There I had to get creative since no one knew what actually happened. That artistic licence apart, I haven’t been jingoistic or fanciful in depicting history. In fact, I’ve been very careful in preserving Rajput pride and dignity.

Q: Do you think the protests are politically motivated?

A: I wouldn’t know. But it’s a part of the Rajput community that’s protesting against my film. So I’ve reason to believe the Rajputs are offended. I want to tell them that history books have given several names to the queen. I used the most popular of those names. But why focus on this issue? My intention was to show how the Rajputs made a difference to Mughal history.

Q: Did you anticipate such loud protests?

A; Honestly, I did! After the release of Ketan Mehta’s “Mangal Pandey”, there were protests about how he was depicted. So I feared this would happen. Unlike my protagonists in “Lagaan” and “Swades”, Jodhaa and Akbar were real people. I delved into Rajput and Mughal history and prepared as much as I could. I also approached Jaipur royalty to get the facts, customs and traditions right.

Q: And not once have you made Aishwarya Rai behave out of character!

A: Yes, I made sure of that. Only after the Jaipur royalty gave me the green signal to call my female protagonist Jodha did I proceed with my film. In anticipation of protests and controversies that are very much part of all our historical films, I decided to be very careful about historical detail.

Q: Film personalities like Shyam Benegal and Raza Murad have hit out at the protesters.

A: I respect their opinion.

Q: The film’s length is seen as detrimental to its full impact and enjoyment?

A: I was never calculating the length. I was only making my film. My earlier edited cut was 3 hours 40 minutes. I finally cut it by 20 minutes more, and no one persuaded me to do so. “Jodhaa Akbar” is definitely in the epic-romance historical genre. Its length is dictated by the genre. Tomorrow, if I make a comedy, I promise you it would be much shorter. I know some people might find the length daunting. But I’m convinced they will finally find it captivating and enchanting. So far, I’m extremely happy with the response. It could’ve been far less positive considering the inbuilt constraints of the historical genre. No one has complained about the way Mughal culture has been portrayed.

Q: Are you going to buckle under and apologise to the protestors?

A: I don’t even know what they’re protesting about! So the question of an apology doesn’t arise. Please read the history texts. Among others, Muni Lal in “Akbar” has called the princess Jodha Bai. This film turned me into a voracious history student. That’s quite something for someone who has never been interested in history.

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