He's at Rajkamal Studio, immersed in the sound mixing of his magnum opus. It's a while before he takes a break to scotch the rumours behind the making of Jodhaa Akbar. So takhliya! Here's Ashutosh Gowariker in a movie-banaya-to-darnakya conversation with Roshmila Bhattacharya
Jodhaa Akbar has been on the verge of release for months. Initially scheduled for Dassera, it was shifted to Diwali, then December-end, then January 25 and now February 15. Can we have an official date please?
For a film like Jodhaa Akbar work doesn't end with the shooting. There have been unforeseen post-production needs. To match the sound of a cannon or a bow and arrow, takes time to get the pitch perfect.
We couldn't keep the October 12 deadline. There was no question of releasing in November and December along with either Om Shanti Om or Taare Zameen Par. I'd assured both Shah Rukh and Aamir that there would be no clash. So it was January 25 till my back injury put us back by another fortnight. Now we're releasing on February 15, for sure.
Does February 15 have a particular significance or is it just the attraction of a Valentine Day's release?
February 6 is Akbar and Jodhaa's wedding anniversary. That's what the royal family tells us though some historians insist that it's January 14.
<b1>There's a dispute over Akbar's birthday too. It could be either October 15 or 25. (Smiles) Akbar had commissioned two historians, Abu Fazal and Badayuni.. they wrote different accounts of the same incident.
Isn't that a larger problem with a period film. If meticulously researched, it becomes a boring documentary. If you mix up facts and figures, you're accused of misrepresentation.
My film spans the life of Akbar between the ages of 13 and 28. I stuck to that time frame. I read up on his grandfather Babar and father Humayun but I didn't extend my research to Jehangir or Shah Jehan.
My story is limited to Akbar's conquests and his relationship with Rajputana. It's 70 per cent fantasy, 30 per cent history.
Were you a history buff in school?
I hated history and just about scraped through. I could never remember dates.. who did what, when and where. (Smiles) The history lessons are catching up with me.. first
I was intrigued by their marriage of convenience. A Hindu Rajput princess and a Mughal emperor entering an alliance for political gain, it's no different from the arranged marriages we have today.
Was yours an arranged marriage too?
No, it was a love match which is why I'm fascinated by the concept of an arranged marriage. Also, the idea of two religions drawing close.. it's the need of the hour.
The movie is supposed to have already crossed the Rs 50 crore ballpark..
My wife Sunita is the executive producer. After taking sets, locations, costumes, every detail into consideration, she arrived at a figure of Rs 37 crore. We have stretched that to Rs 40 crore and that's the official budget.
Did it entail major cost cutting? Apparently, some of the props, armoury and weapons are not sufficiently grand or authentic.
See the film, then we'll discuss this. It'll be said that it's a Rs 100 crore-film and I'll take that as a compliment.
There are bound to be comparisons with
I'm prepared for that but honestly there can't be any comparisons. The stories unfold in different periods. Still when you think of Jodhaa and Akbar you instantly recall Durga Khote and Prithviraj Kapoor. Durgabai was a beauty too, you should see her in Soudamini. But when she played Jodhaa she was much older.
Both Prithviraj Kapoor and she were close to 60. Comparing them to Aishwarya (Rai) and Hrithik (Roshan) is like comparing Ajay Devgan with Bobby Deol or with Sonu Sood because they all played Bhagat Singh.
Is Aishwarya's voice being dubbed? Her Urdu diction was suspect in Umrao Jaan.
As a Rajput princess, she's not expected to speak Urdu. Hrithik was the one who had to slog. We had a dialogue and dialect coach, Kamal Ahmed, on the sets who ensured that everyone spoke the language perfectly.
It's said that Hrithik Roshan often got his lines a day before the shoot and then reached the sets to find them being re-written.
He got his dialogue script a year before we started shooting. Yes, the dialect coach sat with him every morning making new markings by way of diction. Maybe someone saw that and misinterpreted it completely.
<b3>Apparently, Hrithik wasn't allowed to view his shots on the video monitor.
I don't like my actors to keep running back to the video after every shot. It distracts them which is why the monitors are placed a distance away. Aishwarya and Hrithik were thrilled that someone else was worrying about how they were being presented.
At the music release Hrithik made a sarcastic dig at how long the film has taken to wrap up.
The battle scenes took some time and dates had to be extended. Still, we wrapped the film in seven months.
Have Aishwarya's shots during the battle scenes been morphed?
She's not in any of the battle scenes.. so the question doesn't arise.
It's said that K Asif could have made another Mughal-e-Azam from the footage he edited out. Ditto for Jodhaa Akbar which is reportedly five-and-a-half hours long.
(Smiles) I wasn't as lucky as Asifsaab. If I was, I'd have released the film in two parts. It's about three-hours-and-10-minutes but even that's not the official length yet.
Why did you rush through with the music release when the CDs weren't even ready?
We'd decided on the date. Dates from the stars had been taken. Royalty had been invited. We didn't want to cancel the event. FM channels are playing only half the songs. They've been given 30-second song trailers to play. The CDs should be out in a week.
How was it editing from bed?
Remember the child who mourned the fact that he had no shoes till he came across a boy with no leg? At least, my back didn't act up when I was shooting.
So what's next?
Lagaan was a fantasy, Swades a social drama and Jodhaa Akbar an epic romance. May be something more contemporary.. something from my world. I'm tired of scouting for period costumes and properties.