Customary pre-release jitters notwithstanding, Ashutosh Gowariker looks relaxed and says his epic romance Jodhaa Akbar, releasing on Friday, is not a bare narration of historical facts.
"The facts from the pages of history have been woven around the story in such a way that, while watching the movie, the audience won't get caught in the maze of historical details of the period, losing clue to the movie's track," Gowariker told IANS.
Gowariker's Rs 400 million magnum opus about the saga of Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar and Rajput princess Jodha Bai's love story has been dubbed in three languages - Hindi, Telugu and Tamil - and subtitled in English, Arabic and Dutch. It will be viewed across 1,500 screens worldwide.
For the past few weeks, Gowariker remained busy overseeing the editing by Ballu Saluja. He has to be extra cautious because Jodhaa Akbar is his first attempt at making a historical love story. Besides, it has been made on a scale he has never tried before.
"I do not know whether magnum opus is the right word to describe Jodhaa Akbar. The movie is basically about post-marriage love affair between the handsome young emperor Akbar and the charming princess Jodha," said Gowariker who has co-produced it with UTV Motion Pictures.
<b1>The director also said he was meticulous to show the flowering of love between Akbar and Jodha in a historical perspective as the movie also touches upon the events that led to their marriage and those that followed it.
"So the movie was required to be made on a bigger scale," he said.
Gowariker emphasised that nowhere in the movie has he made any attempt to fictionalise history just to make the love story palatable to the audience.
Why did he think of making a historical when the genre has gone out of fashion in Bollywood?
"No genre goes out of fashion if the maker handles it properly," he quipped.
According to him, after the stupendous success of Lagaan, when his next movie Swades drew a blank at the box-office, he was greatly disappointed, in spite of the fact that it earned loads of critical acclaim for its underlying patriotic message.
So he thought of making a movie on a larger canvas, but bided his time to get hold of a subject that would justify his vision of the proposed venture.
When writer Haidar Ali narrated the story of Jodhaa Akbar, what actually fascinated Gowariker was that Akbar and Jodha fell in love with each other only after their marriage. He found that to be a very common characteristic in married young Indian couples and therefore an ideal story to be retold.
Gowariker was as meticulous in finalising the movie's cast. The choice of Aishwarya for Jodha was instant. But it took him some time before he decided on Hrithik for Akbar's part.
"Ronnie Screwvala and I had a few deliberations before we finalised the lead star. We wanted an actor who would justify the role and at the same time who had a good box-office appeal. Finally, our choice fell on Hrithik and as it turned out, our choice could not have been better," Gowariker gushed.
The advance reports about Jodhaa Akbar predict it to be a visual treat. The general verdict in film circles is that a Bollywood movie was never made earlier on such a grand scale and with so much authenticity.
Naturally, comparisons are bound to be made with former Mughal era sagas like Mughal-e-Azam, Taj Mahal, Anarkali, or even Razia Sultan, which are still fresh in public minds.
The trade circles, however, are not as forthcoming on its business prospects.
"The movie justifies the cost. Since UTV is releasing the film itself worldwide, it is taking a big risk," a distributor said curtly.
But UTV itself is confident that the movie will be able to endear itself to the box-office despite being a historical.
"If Disney's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' series could set a box-office record worldwide, there is no reason why domestic and international audience will not be taken in by a movie like Jodhaa Akbar," said a source from UTV.
"Besides, Gowariker, being an Academy Award nominee for his earlier directorial venture Lagaan, commands international credibility," added the source.
Screwvala was not available for comment, but the source added that the company does not want to do any guesswork about how much business the movie will do in the domestic as well as overseas market.
As for Gowariker, all he would say is: "I am happy with the end product and right now all I can do is hope for the best."