Ashutosh Gowariker Curated

Director, Actor, Screenwriter

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Ashutosh Gowariker have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Ashutosh Gowariker's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming directors. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Do you also wish to be in those 100cr 200cr club?

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  • what is the process you follow of picking your star cast?

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  • How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

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  • What is your experience of watching movies?

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  • What is it that makes A R Rahman Give music in your every film?

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  • What do you have to say about the new wave in Indian Cinema?

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  • What is your coping mechanism with all the criticism?

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  • How is it working the bollywood biggies ?

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  • What is in history that attracts you so much?

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  • What do you have to say on nepotism in Bollywood?

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  • How do handle the pressure of research and present so old story to the audience?

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  • Do you have intellectual arrogance?

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  • What do you think about the people giving their opinion about whether the film will work or not?

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  • Any new age directors that has been inspiration for you?

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  • What is the different genre that you would love to try?

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  • What are some jugaad that you might have done as an aspirational filmmaker?

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  • What do you think has changed from the days you started directing to today?

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  • What is journey from actor to director?

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  • What was your inspiration to make Swadesh?

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  • How do you balance the process of film making?

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  • What was it like to shoot your dream film Lagaan?

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  • How did you take the initial rejections from actors?

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  • How do you pitch for big budget movies?

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  • Would you want yours sons also to become a film maker?

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  • What is the contribution of Sunita in your life and career?

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  • Tell us about your love story with Sunita?

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  • How is your connection with your father?

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  • How does it feel to be a previlege member to have Right to Vote for Academy Awards?

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  • What was your reaction after being nominated for Oscars?

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  • Did you ever dream in your life of being nominated for Oscars?

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  • Do you think making cinemas for new comers have become easier with the advancement of technology?

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  • Which stream of cinema industry do you consider yourself?

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  • Do you think investing more money in films generates more business?

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  • How do you try make films more realistic?

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  • DO you research for movies alone or you have team?

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  • How did you research for the movie Lagaan?

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  • How do you get the raw material to decide the subject of the film?

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  • Hwo did you learn directing films?

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  • Were leaving acting and enter in direction was by choice or you felt acting is not your field?

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  • What was your family reaction on career choice of yours?

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  • When did you got your first break?

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  • When did you realise you are expressive through films?

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  • What do you want to achieve with these films when youngsters are time deficit?

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  • Do you think it's important to put women in movie not as a potrait but in real character?

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  • What is the trick to make historical films that doesn't feel like a history lesson?

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  • What has changed in making of historical films from Jodha Akbar to Panipat?

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  • How did you feel when you heard your film being nominated?

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  • What was your experience on becoming second indian director whose film was nominated for Oscar?

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  • When do you realise the script is done ?

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  • What was your reaction after your first film flopped?

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  • How did you manage to bring Shahrukh and Amir together for the first and last time in a film?

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  • How was it the first day of your directing when you have to call out "action"?

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  • How do you come with title Phla Nasha for your first film?

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  • What was the approach with which you wrote Laggan?

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  • Do you think the reality shown in the movie is too harsh to relate to real life?

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  • Do you think the social message you tried to convey through Swadesh actually reached to people?

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  • Which one do you find difficult pleasing the critic or pleasing the masses?

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  • Why do you want viewers to watch the film?

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  • Are you open to more acting roles after Ventilator?

    Acting is a difficult job, but it was calming and liberating for me to stand in front of a camera and not have to worry about the colour of the curtains behind me. I’d love to do roles which interest me. But right now, I’m in the battlefield

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  • Would you say our audience has evolved?

    I don’t think the audience has changed. I, too, grew up watching Amar Akbar Anthony and Rajnigandha, Don, Gol Maal with films of Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray, as also Hollywood flicks. What has changed is access. Earlier, Rajnigandha would play in three theatres, today, it would play in multiplexes, do Rs100 crore business. What has evolved is the distribution and exhibition, which is the bridge between filmmakers and the audience.

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  • After Mohenjo Daro, it couldn’t have been easy finding backers for Panipat?

    For a project to be greenlit, you need actors willing to work with you and funders who’ll back you. I was fortunate to get both. Also, I have a pillar in Sunita. She’d also come out of Mohenjo Daro and had she told me not to make Panipat, I wouldn’t have. My wife has a natural business acumen, she understands numbers and finds solutions to problems which are huge. We also found a collaborative partner in Rohit Shelatkar, who has been harvesting this dream for a while.

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  • Was it a brave step for Aamir too, not just to act in it but to also produce the film?

    Oh yes, it was. But Aamir was always trying to do different things while remaining mainstream. Even when he had started, Raakh came on the heels of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Lagaan with Dil Chahta Hai. But yes, Lagaan gave us the confidence and the eyeballs to take more leaps. I went on to make the nationalistic Swades, followed by Jodhaa Akbar. And along with the audience, the trade was interested in my next.

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  • Lagaan was the turning point for both Aamir Khan and you. What do you recall of the film?

    When I moved to direction, the attempt was to do something new and different. That’s what led to Pehla Nasha with Deepak Tijori, followed by Baazi, which was an attempt to change Aamir’s image from a chocolate hero to an action hero. Lagaan was a step further, on a bigger scale. Back then, no one believed a cricket film, revolving around villagers who spoke in Avadhi, set in British India, would work. But both of us were excited about entering this world. Lagaan was a period drama and a sports film, it made a social statement, had songs and was a love story. Even I have not made a multi-genre film like this since. It went to the Oscars, the Olympics of cinema. We made it to the last five, after which it’s unfair to choose. But a choice had to be made, that doesn’t devalue the rest. We lost the cherry, but we ate the cake.

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  • Do you see any changes in you from when you were an actor?

    As a person, my knowledge about our country and its neighbours since our histories are connected, has been enriched by my own films. But as a maker, I start on a zero when I start a new project. The challenges are so different each time that I’m scared on the first day of shoot, and for every day after that, worried if I’m doing the scene right.

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  • Would you want to revisit Mohenjo Daro?

    Not at the moment, and even if I did, I’d want to go to Harappa this time, as it became a bigger trading centre after Mohenjo Daro. A civilisation was named after it. But after Mohenjo Daro, Jodhaa Akbar and Lagaan, I’m done with pre-history, medieval, Mughal India and the British era. I haven’t explored Ancient India yet. I’d want to make a film on Buddha, on how Prince Siddhartha became Buddha. What happened to bring the change, the answers he found…

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  • During Mohenjo Daro you were also dragged to court on plagiarism charges ?

    I’d never copy anyone’s script, in fact, I’d never take anything from anyone that doesn’t belong to me. I am very straight so when such court cases happen, I feel sad, but I have to still fight them.

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  • What mistakes did you make with Mohenjo Daro? Was it the special effects?

    Mohenjo Daro was pre-history, there were no references, so we wrote a story and built a world around it, from scratch, hoping the audience would identify with it. They didn’t, despite all our Herculean efforts. I’ve noted that the audience forgives bad performances and VFX if the script connects with them. That did not happen in this case. Maybe I could have done it a little differently in terms of emotions.

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  • You give three years to a film like Mohenjo Daro, then, it’s torn apart. Where do you get the strength to enter another battlefield?

    The norm of this business is that failure is singularly yours while success is to be shared. So, I never blame anyone. I analyse what went wrong, make mental notes and try not to repeat the mistakes in the next film.

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  • In India we’re quick to compare, pass judgements. So, as soon as your trailer came out, similarities between Arjun’s Sadashiv Rao Bhau and Ranveer’s Bajirao and Sanjay’s Abdali and Ranveer’s Khilji from Padmaavat were noted.

    That’s understandable because the last film that comes out, stays in our recent memory. So, Jodhaa Akbar was immediately compared to Mughal-E-Azam, Bajirao Mastani to Jodhaa Akbar and Padmaavat to Bahubali. That’s nothing to be worried about. Also, we are still in the era of the Peshwas in Panipat, which revolves around Bajirao’s next generation—his son, Nana Saheb Peshwa, his brother Chimaji Appa’s son Sadashiv Rao Bhau and his second son with Mastani, Shamsher Bahadur. So, the costumes and their palace, remain the same but the story is very different.

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  • You’ve always cast against type but what made you opt for Sanjay Dutt, Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon who had never done a historical film before Panipat?

    According to descriptions, Sadashiv Rao Bhau was a large man, a warrior with brute strength. Arjun fitted the bill. Also, he was free then to give me the commitment I wanted. And having seen his Ishaqzaade, 2 States and Finding Fanny, I knew him as a natural, understated performer. Kriti is beautiful, and having played the girl-next-door in all films, I thought it would be nice to see her in regality as Parvati Bai. Sanjay and I go back a long way, having been co-actors on Naam. When I asked him why he’d never done a historical before, he said simply that no one had asked him. So, I did. He’s my Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali. All three were my first choices. Along with them, I have an interesting ensemble cast in Mohnish Bahl (Nana Saheb Peshwa), Padmini Kolhapure (Gopika Bai) and Zeenat Aman ji (Sakina Begum).

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  • How do you plan to whip up interest and bring people to the theatres?

    Yes, we have read about the battle but how many know that there were three battles of Panipat, and the third, which we are bringing to the screen, was the most inspiring? For the first time in history, anywhere in the world, an army travelled 1,000 kilometres to stop an invader. Since film is an audio-visual medium, it’ll take you beyond textbooks. And while I like to be authentic in my depiction, I also like to tell a story in an entertaining way. I can’t think of making a film without songs; elements like music keep the audience engaged

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  • How difficult is it creating these worlds?

    It’s very difficult and is all in the prep, which is why I make one film in three years. The research doesn’t end with the script, but blossoms through different departments—from art to action, from costumes to hair and make-up. And since every department needs time, the key is patience and singular focus. In this, I’m not alone. Along with my crew of like-minded people, I need committed actors who’ll shave their head and stay in that look for six eight months. Building that commitment is like building an army in itself.

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  • What makes you want to create big screen spectacles?

    I love history, and within that, the theme is important, be it religious tolerance (Jodhaa Akbar) or the concept of unity (Lagaan). I also love to create different worlds and learn what were the smallest sparks that fired these big events.

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  • How do you look at success and failures ?

    I don’t look at success and failure through a magnifying glass because my previous film has also not been so successful. I feel that’s success because I made the film that I wanted to achieve and for me getting that from an idea to the final screen defines success. It’s about how you align yourself to the new part that you’re playing, the new film that you’re doing. Are you going to attack it with the same passion? That’s most important.

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  • You have mostly collaborated with AR Rahman for your period films. But this time you opted for Ajay-Atul. Why?

    Rahman is great. He would have researched and studied the Marathi milieu of the time and created the music. But I needed a Marathi-ness that was natural. Only Ajay-Atul have that. I had never worked with them. But I have been an admirer of their work. I called up Rahman and told him that I have called to ask if he would allow me to sign another music director this time. He asked why do you need my permission. I said it’s because of our association. He said that’s sweet of you to ask but go ahead. Then he asked who is it. When I said Ajay-Atul, he said that’s an excellent choice and he himself has been an admirer of their work.

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  • Almost every time a historical film is released, someone or the other accuses it of being inaccurate or misleading. How do you prepare for such obstacles?

    Every 10–15 years a new historian goes through the previous books and writes his own. Then people start questioning its content. The historian might say he has found two old letters which nobody had. Hence, there are such problems even among historians. I am a cinematic historian, but I am not a historian. I am a filmmaker trying to tell a chapter of history on screen. Every history book is 400–500 pages long. You can’t portray it entirely in a film. But people will question you for retaining something and deleting something else. So I am prepared for people’s objections, questions and discussions because I have answers. I also don’t feel bad for having to explain because this history belongs to all of us. We all have a certain visualization of history. Mohenjo Daro (2016) didn’t live up to the Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilization that is in the minds of people since childhood. That’s why the film didn’t work.

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  • How challenging is it to make historical films ?

    Whenever I finish making a historical, the first thought that comes to mind is that my next film will have only two characters, it will be a one-night story set in a single room in Switzerland. There will be no problems and we will complete the film in 18 days. Normally I take 100 to 125 days. So when I start thinking about the story for my next film, I don’t think I will do a historical again. It is always the theme I try to look for, which inspires me. And that theme turns out to be history. My treatment in Panipat is much more authentic. For example, nobody knows what happened between Jodha and Akbar inside their palace. So, I could do what I wanted to. But here I have tried to keep in mind the realistic and authentic portrayal of what happened in the entire journey.

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  • Have you thought about taking extra care to ensure that Arjun Kapoor doesn’t fall behind in comparison with Ranveer Singh?

    Not at all, because when I had cast Hrithik Roshan [as the emperor Akbar in Jodhaa Akbar (2008)], people compared him directly with Prithviraj Kapoor (laughs). Mughal-e-Azam (1960) came 50 years ago. There was no connection! It [Jodhaa Akbar] was four generations later. So, I don’t think much about this. The character I have chosen for this film required Arjun Kapoor. Sadashivrao Bhau was a stubborn and large warrior. Only Arjun fit such an image as only he has the quality. Plus, he has never done a historical film.

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  • What do you have to say on your film being compared to other historical films?

    The newness comes out of the theme, script or period. If I make Jodhaa Akbar, I know I will not make anything on Jehangir and Shahjahan because it’s done. When it comes to the British Raj, I am not interested in anything after 1857. So making that choice is very important. Comparisons will always happen. If you compare it with your own film, it’s great. If you compare it with a previous hit film, that’s a natural thing too; you have to always welcome that. I am doing the peshwa period. So, naturally, when you see the trailer, everyone will compare it with Bajirao [Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani (2015)] because you have seen it in that film. But the fact is that these people are descendants of Bajirao. It’s the next generation, after 20 years. So, the clothes and their house Shanivarwada have to be the same. The story is really what defines the different aspect of this movie.

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  • What was the reason for choosing Panipat story?

    We have always heard about the three battles of Panipat. Why is every battle happening in Panipat? It’s not a war destination. But Panipat is located on the outskirts of Delhi in the northwest such that every invader had to be stopped there before he could reach Delhi. I showed the Second Battle of Panipat in Jodhaa Akbar (2008). This was not supposed to be a battle in Panipat. This was supposed to be an army travelling up north a thousand kilometres to stop an invader. They were approaching Delhi. But circumstances ensured that when [Ahmad Shah] Abdali came in they were on opposite sides of the Yamuna. It’s about how the chase happened across the Yamuna and how they reached Delhi, then north, and how finally they reached Panipat, where they were not supposed to reach, and the battle took place. It’s a very interesting and intriguing storyline, which we haven’t told because the battle was lost. We all like victories. But we also like tragedies. If we don’t like tragedies, how can we explain so many love stories where the hero and the heroine die in the end? We weep and go home saying, ‘That was a great tragic love story.’ So, this is a tragic battle story. In a warrior’s life there is always courage and battle. But what is it over here? This army consisted of Hindus, Muslims, Marathas of all castes, farmers, etc. It was just a blend, unification of a different kind. I found that very interesting.

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  • What do you have to say about Hrithik's father, Rakesh Roshan's criticism of the tacky VFX of the film?

    Yes, certain shots could have been handled in a better way. I admit that there were certain discrepancies here and there. But otherwise, I don't think so it was bad. We had a set budget which we couldn't go beyond — those were our limitations. We also didn't have enough time. A fancier VFX job would require an additional six months and more money, none of which we could afford. So we did our best in what we could.

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  • Do you think clash of Rustom was the reason for failure of Mohenjodaro on Box Office?

    A film works or fails on its own merit. You can never blame an outside force for it. If someone comes to watch your film and doesn't like it, you cannot do anything about it. They are very well within their right to reject a film. In this case, perhaps people didn't align with my vision and so the film failed. Those who did find it interesting came and watched.

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  • Do you think film had some historical inaccuracies ?

    Historians and archaeologists have a lot of heated debate among themselves. They don't agree on many things. But I had to follow some and take a stance which I did. Everything that was shown in the film, including Kabir Bedi's headgear is absolutely accurate and is rooted in history. I stand by it. In fact, the film will be screened next week at an annual archaeological convention where some noted archaeologists are going to be present at the University of Wisconsin. They want to watch it because of the film's historical accuracies.

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  • When did you realised that Mohenjodaro is going to flop ?

    The trailer was rejected by the audience instantly. It is your first communication with the audience and I had lost the game there itself. People didn't connect with it and that caused a lot of disinterest in the film. And this I became aware of the very day the trailer was released.

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  • Why the Mohenjodaro was rejected?

    A section of the audience that saw the film in theatres like it. Those who saw it on television, they appreciated it too. And then there was a section of the audience who panned the film. It was because they had a certain imagination of MohenjoDaro, which the film didn't align with. Now why did that happen? Did you know what Mohenjo Daro looked like, before the movie? No. You sat up on it after we made the film. It's about a perception and that in itself is very hard to change.

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  • how is your relationship with your family ?

    Sometimes, in the process of pursuing your dreams and ambitions, you start ignoring people. Maybe not consciously. But some of their needs that require immediate attention may not be as important for you as it should. For a lucky few, the realisation of guilt hits soon enough. But at times, it's too late. This film explores this fine line and the personal resonance attracted me to the script.

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  • Which one do you find easier acting or directing ?

    Acting is easier than direction because your responsibilities are limited. Direction is all-encompassing. Especially with the kind of films I make, you've to have all departments in sync with each other; you've to keep the moods uplifted and relations good. All the HODs must be happy with one another and to ensure that is also a director's responsibility. To top all of this? You've to extract great performances from your cast. It is mighty tough.

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  • How does it feel to return on the film set as an actor ?

    It is quite liberating. It is like a vacation solely because of the limited responsibility. As a director, you've to look at everything — from art to cinematography to costumes to the sound design to all your actors. On the other hand, here I've to figure out only my life and not bother about any other department. As a director, your spectrum is too wide.

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  • How much do you take to write or work on a script ?

    It takes me two to three years at least to work on a script. I am not like V.Shantaram Ji, Guru Dutt Ji and Raj Kapoor saab – all of whom would direct and act at the same time. It’s very difficult to handle both the reins – direction and acting at the same time. I feel, I need to bring perfection in my direction first.

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  • What have you learnt during your acting stint ?

    The experiences that I derived from acting, I carried it forward into the direction. Just by being on different sets during my acting days and interacting with different actors, I learnt how different stories are told.

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  • Are we going to see you more as an actor ?

    I feel acting needs a lot of focus. It’s indeed very difficult thing. During the initial days of my acting career, I felt very happy and excited as well. I also got loads of experience from acting.

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  • What did you learn from the failures of your previous films ?

    Dealing with failure is never easy, but as a director, you have to move on and learn from your mistakes. The most important thing is your approach towards failure. My first film Pehla Nasha didn’t work and I felt the audience didn’t understand my film and that was my approach. But later on, I realised that the audience is always right. You have to respect the views of the audience because they have to like it eventually. I start learning what the audience didn’t like so that I don’t repeat those mistakes.

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  • How do you deal with your failures ?

    Dealing with failure is never easy, but as a director, you have to move on and learn from your mistakes. The most important thing is your approach towards failure. My first film Pehla Nasha didn’t work and I felt the audience didn’t understand my film and that was my approach. But later on, I realised that the audience is always right. You have to respect the views of the audience because they have to like it eventually. I start learning what the audience didn’t like so that I don’t repeat those mistakes.

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  • Was it a conscious decision to keep the run time of the film below 3 hours?

    It is a drama-love story so it demanded only 2 hours 30 minutes of runtime.

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  • Do you want to master the art of period films?

    I enjoy making period films and that's the reason why I am making them. But beyond that, I love to narrate stories that people have not heard. No one was aware about the love story between Jodhaa and Akhbar or even the Indus Valley Civilization.

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  • What is your idea of working with Sharukh Salman Amir and Akshay together ?

    I am definitely toying with the idea to work with them but it is very important to have a concrete script and an interesting character to get them on board. It is very difficult to come up with something that would challenge these actors but I want to work with them.

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  • Is it difficult to raise money for a period film ?

    It is difficult to raise money for a period film because you are attempting to create a different world. It takes time for people to understand what you are trying to do. For me, since I have made a few successful films, it was comparatively easy. UTV instantly came on board because they loved the script. But the numbers were very high and the budget was big, so we needed a big star like Hrithik to come on board before we could do anything. Once we had Hrithik, all the budget issue got sorted. I think without Hrithik, Mohenjo Daro would have never been made.

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  • How much does commercial success matter to you ?

    Commercial success is very important because the movies that I make are very expensive and it becomes important to recover the investment, so definitely commercial success matters a lot.

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  • How did you decided for Pooja Hegde ?

    We wanted to introduce a new face to create a certain amount of freshness in the film. If it is an established actress, it becomes a bit difficult to create that although we have seen many directors managing to explore that as well.

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  • Was Hritik always the first choice for Mohenjodaro ?

    When Hrithik came on board for Shuddhi, I was scripting Mohenjo Daro. I narrated the script to Hrithik and he really liked it. At that time, Hrithik had an option of doing either Shuddhi orMohenjo Daro. So I asked him to go ahead with Shuddhi as we were ready to wait for him. But later, Shuddhi didn't happen and Hrithik wanted to start this film as quickly as possible.

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  • Why mohenjodaro ?

    Despite being our first civilization, Indians barely know anything about it so I thought why not use cinema as a tool to explore that and create a story set in that era. If you see world cinema, there are so many films made against the backdrop of Greek and Egypt civilizations but we never made a film on our civilization. So with Mohenjo Daro, I am trying to make the Indus Valley Civilization popular.

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  • How did you created the world of mohenjadaro ?

    There was no visual reference at all for me to create the world of Mohenjo Daro but we mainly referred to books to get things right. Apart from that, we had archaeological assistance, which in my opinion, is very important while making a movie such as this. The great bath in the song 'Tu Hai' is exactly the way it was in Mohenjo Daro. We have built a few structures exactly the way they existed in that era. But to make a film, you need a story or else the film would end up being a documentary. I have blended facts and fiction in the film.

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  • Are you looking at producing/directing a Marathi film going forward?

    I have been toying with this idea for quite some time now but I haven’t zeroed in on any thematic content simply because my movies have taken so much time, that I never got a chance to break away. But my desire is very strong to come up with something in the next two years.

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  • You are returning to acting in a Marathi film after 18 years. What was it like facing the camera after all these years?

    Thankfully, it is a character which is very close to me, because the role is that of a filmmaker. I had requested [director] Rajesh [Mapuskar] two weeks of reading time wherein I could just sit with him and read the script. So I was not suddenly put in front of the camera and asked to perform! Overall, it was a different experience to face the camera again. Quite liberating!

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  • When your film doesn’t perform well at the box office, how do you deal with it?

    I feel sad because a lot of money is riding on it. Reputation is riding on it. Your first responsibility is towards the person who is giving you those funds. In the case of a book, when a book doesn’t work, we never call it a colossal failure. But if that book is made into a film, there is so much more money riding on it that you will call it a big loss [if it does not do well]. You have to take it in your stride and introspect. In the case of Mohenjo Daro, 50 percent of the audience loved it, 50 percent did not. I am thankful to the people who loved it; that they appreciated the vision and aligned with it. But ones who didn’t, I’ll have to analyse why they did not. I am not someone who goes into a shell. I like to break the shell.

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  • How do you take the criticism which Jodhaa Akbar and Mohenjo Daro got for distorting historical facts?

    There will always be [some kind of] objection, because there are so many different historical theories. And so many debates between historians and archaeologists. As a filmmaker, you choose the best interpretation that you would like and take that to the screen. If you go for the real truth, then it’s a documentary. And we are not in the art of making documentary films. We are into making movies, telling stories and re-interpreting.

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  • What according to you are the four pillars of a film that you are a part of?

    Personally, the theme would be most important, as to what the film is trying to say. When I was thinking about what I should make on religious tolerance, it gave birth to Jodhaa Akbar. When I was thinking about nationalism, I made Swades. Mohenjo Daro was more about the environment angle, where [we depicted] how we are destroying our environment, how as a civilization, we are on the brink of collapse. Next, it should have some kind of learning – a social or moral message and a path of discovery in it. Fourth, it should also entertain. I like to enter the unknown with every film, because then I am able to discover and look at that world in amazement and then try and bring that story together. I want the audience to experience the same joy and awe that I experience.

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  • How have you evolved as a filmmaker since 1993, when you made ‘Pehla Nasha’ with Deepak Tijori and Pooja Bhatt?

    Thankfully, my parents inculcated in me a habit of reading Marathi and English literature. They took me to see films and plays and my introduction to the arts was very strong. However, I never desired to become an entertainer or a filmmaker. I had no formal education in filmmaking and am completely self-taught. All the reading from my childhood helped. From Pehla Nasha, my debut film, to Lagaan, there has been a constant development on the back of a lot of reading. When I directed Pehla Nasha, I had only worked as an actor until then. I had no idea how to do a close-up or a wide angle shot or how to explore a cinematic language. Pehla Nasha did not work, but I think it is one of the most expensive diploma films ever made. Then came Baazi, which gave me an insight into a different world of storytelling. By the time I did Lagaan, I was more in control of the script. But I still don’t know a lot of things. I know the machinations of filmmaking. Sometimes you hit upon a story and an extremely captivating idea, the crew resonates and you have a hit film.

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  • Do you think the recent controversies affected Hritik Roshan performance?

    Hrithik since Jodhaa has obviously acted in three or four films with slightly more mature parts. He is more nuanced as an actor now. Both of us shared a comfort and joy after Jodhaa. We understood each other better. And he came up with certain details and nuances in his acting that came as a surprise. Any creative person learns from his experience and adds a new dimension to his craft. Hrithik has taken Sarman well beyond the script.

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  • How has Hrithik Roshan evolved since ‘Jodhaa Akbar’?

    Hrithik since Jodhaa has obviously acted in three or four films with slightly more mature parts. He is more nuanced as an actor now. Both of us shared a comfort and joy after Jodhaa. We understood each other better. And he came up with certain details and nuances in his acting that came as a surprise. Any creative person learns from his experience and adds a new dimension to his craft. Hrithik has taken Sarman well beyond the script.

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  • You did not have any problems with ‘Lagaan’. Was it because it was fiction and a more emotional story?

    With Lagaan, we were dealing with recent history, still fresh in our minds. You had the British Raj, land owners, villagers paying lagan [tax]. There is more than ample material and references for that era. Mohenjo Daro is ancient history and the absence of enough material of the era has led to this intense speculation and debate.

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  • What were your points of reference?

    My point of reference was Mughal-e-Azam. The film was not remembered for its historical accuracy or inaccuracy but for its depiction of the compelling love story of Salim and Anarkali. When Jodhaa Akbar was made, there were a lot of discussions and debates about whether Jodha even existed. Surprisingly, it was the royal family of Amer, descendants of Jodha Bai, who came to the film’s defence. When you are working with historic material of this nature which has several interpretations, you can only follow one school of thought. I chose to go with [anthropology professor] Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. I chose to go with one of the many ideologies about Mohenjo Daro. I am not saying I am right and everyone else is wrong. Akbar had appointed two historians in his court, Abul Fazal and Badauni. Fazal wrote Akbar Nama in flowery language extolling Akbar’s virtues and making him and his achievements appear larger than life. Badauni was far more objective about Akbar and his policies, focusing on his land reforms and other administrative issues. He was, in fact, dismissive of Fazal. The two scholars wrote two very different versions of Akbar’s reign. You could either follow Fazal or go to with Badauni.

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  • Are we being unreasonable in demanding a realistic historical Hindi movie?

    Let me give you an example. When you watched the film Gandhi, you knew it was not Gandhi but Sir Ben Kingsley playing the part. I would only request people to keep that suspension of disbelief active when they watch my film. Having said that, whatever be its intent, the film should be powerful and gripping enough for the audience to forget all the external discussions and speculation and get drawn into the film.

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  • Do you think the critical reaction to the trailer Mohenjodaro justified?

    Each one of us has our own way of imagining history. Especially with something that is unexplored. We know nothing about the people’s lives [in the Indus Valley Civilisation] other than a few key professions and the architecture of the city. We have all built a picture of the civilisation from our imagination.

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  • Why do you persist historical genre always ?

    What takes me back to the genre again and again is the opportunity to tell the untold stories of another era. I enjoy creating a different world set in a different time. There was nothing about the Indus Valley Civilisation in popular culture other than what was found during the excavations. And that gave me more liberty to create my characters and my story. For instance, we have seen pictures of an excavated figurine of a man playing drums. That became the inspiration for Sarman, played by Hrithik Roshan. The figurine of a dancing girl from the site was my inspiration for Chaani, played by Pooja Hegde. I have taken plenty of artistic liberties with the looks of the characters – after all I cannot show nudity for the sake of reality. But I did not take liberties with the architecture, the culture. You must realise that there is still a lot of speculation about the civilisation because we know so little. Scholars are still debating, trying to redevelop the era. There is a lot that is based on hypothesis. But all this is the space for scholarship. I have only made a film and at no point do I say that it is meant to be a part of academic discourse on the subject.

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  • The historical is a challenging genre in Indian cinema. How do you keep it relevant?

    I don’t think it is relevant by default. Any part of history you choose to deal with, whether it is the Chittagong uprising in Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se or Mohenjo Daro, has to be made relevant. Your audience has to identify with it and feel for the characters. For me, unless there is something identifiable and relevant about the characters in that part of history, I will not take it up.

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