16 years of Lagaan: Rachel’s agent told her she’ll never hear of the film afterwards
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16 years of Lagaan: Rachel’s agent told her she’ll never hear of the film afterwards

Actor Rachel Shelley, who played the role of Elizabeth in the 2001 film Lagaan, was over the moon when the film got nominated for the Oscars.

bollywood Updated: Jul 13, 2017 17:35 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Rachel Shelly,Lagaan,Elizabeth
Rachel Shelley says she was overwhelmed to see the concept of spot boys while shooting for Lagaan, as things work differently in Hollywood.

Rachel Shelley cannot believe that it has already been 16 years since she shot for the iconic film Lagaan. The English actor, who played the role Captain Russell’s (Paul Blackthorne) sister, Elizabeth, speaks to us on the film’s 16th anniversary, and recalls the “magical time” she had while shooting for the film in Bhuj, Gujarat.


How did you land the role?
I gave auditions like actors usually do. But after I got a call, I was made to mime and dance to the song—Prelude from The Sound of Music. Since I am not a trained dancer, a friend helped me with the moves. I remember Aamir [Khan] was there at the audition. I was really keen to return to India and work there, because I had been to the country a few times before. So the idea of working there was exciting.

Paul (Blackthorne) told us that learning Hindi was tough for him. How was the experience for you?
Of course it was. My biggest preparation was learning Hindi. But I was luckier than Paul. He had to speak Hindi as if he had been doing it for a while, whereas I had to speak it, as I had just come in the country (laughs). Other than that, I read a lot of historical depictions of women. I can’t remember anything specific now.

How did your family and friends react when you told them you will be in a Bollywood film?
They were all so excited. But I remember my agent at that time said, ‘Go ahead and do it, but you will never hear of the film afterwards’. Look how wrong she was now.

What was your experience of shooting for the film?
I had a magical time while shooting for the film. We spent about three to four months for the shoot. I remember it was the first ever mainstream commercial Bollywood film, to use sync sound technology, which meant everyone had to be quiet while the shooting was going on. And that took time for people to get used to. Then I was also overwhelmed to see the concept of spot boys, because in Hollywood things are different, and there aren’t many people involved in a film’s shoot.

And when the film bagged an Oscar nomination, what was your first reaction?
I was over the moon and so excited to hear the news. I was lucky enough to be in LA at the time for Oscars. I was happy for India to have a film, which was considered for the Oscars. It was well-deserved. I was so proud of the film. It was an amazing experience. Most actors dream of going to the Oscars, and we did it. Though we didn’t win, we had a saying then that ‘you have already won an Oscar if you have been nominated for it.’

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First Published: Jun 15, 2017 07:44 IST