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‘Lagaan’ turns 20: Aamir Khan goes down memory lane

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Aamir Khan tells you he wouldn’t be inclined to relive the mammoth experience of making “Lagaan”, the film that marked his debut as producer exactly two decades ago on this date, struck box office gold and eventually took him to the Oscars.

“If you ask me to make Lagaan again, I will not even attempt it. I will not have the courage to make Lagaan again,” says the superstar-filmmaker, about the Ashutosh Gowariker-directorial that defied every stereotype of the era, in the process reorganising quite a few idioms of mainstream Bollywood in its time.

Perhaps there is a sense of fulfilment that an achiever of his stature experiences while looking back at a work as consummate as “Lagaan” that would bar him from revisiting the film.

Aamir, anyway, is rarely known to repeat what he has scored with once.

Today, as the film completes 20 years, the actor romances the good old days when he shot the film, which eventually became India’s third-ever official entry at the Oscars in best foreign feature film category. While he confesses picking one memory from that incredible journey is tough for him, he recalls a few unforgettable ones.

He remembers actor Paul Blackthorne, for instance, the English actor who played the much-hated antagonist Captain Russell. Aamir remembers Russell as a “gentle giant” off-camera, who would read out “Winnie The Pooh” to everyone.

“Paul Blackthorne who played the villain, in real life he is such a sweetheart. He is a gentle giant and so soft-spoken. He was always laughing, always joking around. We had a massive make-up room where all of us used to get ready. The person who used to be entertaining all of us was Paul. He would sit on his chair and read ‘Winnie the Pooh’ aloud. Every morning, we’d sit, get our makeup done and he’d be reading ‘Winnie The Pooh’ loudly and we’d enjoy it. Captain Russel would read out Winnie The Pooh to us,” Aamir tells IANS, as he bursts out laughing recalling the memory.

Another of Aamir’s favourite recollections is of how the Gayatri Mantra prepared the entire unit for a gruelling day’s shoot ahead.

“There were things that became a habit. We would travel in a bus to the location at 4 a.m. and reach the location at 5 a.m. Every day it became a norm that for six months the ‘Gayatri Mantra’ used to be played. One of the actors just played it (on speaker) in the morning. It used to be dark, and we all had just woken up a while back. It had a good effect on us. There was not a single day that we missed it,” he recalls.

For Aamir, as well as the entire unit, “Lagaan” has been a chapter that will always be integral to their lives. It is a reason why he has stayed in touch with the team.

“I am in touch with Paul, Rachel Shelley (who played Elizabeth), with all other actors. Until five months back we had a Whatsapp group. Then I stopped using a cellphone, so I’m not a part of it,” Aamir says.

For the actor, having his family on the set of the film on the first day is still a beautiful memory.

“I think one of the memorable things for me is that since this was my first film as a producer, my uncle (Nasir Hussain), with whom I have worked as an AD (assistant director), was like my boss. I have learnt under him. He was a producer-director. My father (Tahir Hussain) has been a producer-director. So, that first day of shooting of ‘Lagaan’, when my uncle and aunt had arrived, my parents were there, my grandmother was there, (former wife) Reena’s parents were there. It was the first day that my parents and my uncle and aunt, who had seen me grow up as a child, were seeing me produce a film,” recalls the actor.

He adds: “They came to set, they saw the whole village. We had built the village, we had built the temple on the hill and behind the temple, which you never see in the film because it is on the other side of the village, we had built a huge 10,000 square-foot area for the production site. Costume rooms, lunch rooms — so there was massive space at the back. So, it was a very important moment for me to see my parents, uncle and aunt come to set, look at it and realise that now I have become a producer.”

Aamir says he did not expect the kind of response the film garnered post release. The reaction to the climactic cricket match in the story, which occupies the last hour of the film, was a pleasant surprise, too. “People in the theatres in the last one hour used to convert it into a stadium. The audience would shout, ‘Bhuvan! Bhuvan!’ We didn’t expect this kind of a response. It was a dream response,” he sums up.

Indeed, it is a dream response that the film still continues to see, after two decades.

Bollywood

‘Bigg Boss 15’: Tejasswi Prakash on the radar of Gauahar Khan

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In the upcoming ‘Weekend Ka Vaar’ episode of ‘Bigg Boss 15’, model and actress Gauahar Khan will enter the house as a celebrity guest.

She will give a task to the contestants to name the person who they believe won’t make it to the top three. During the task, only Tejasswi gets called out by Gauahar.

The celebrity guest asks Tejasswi to come on the dais along with Nishant Bhat and Rashami Desai. Now, Tejasswi has to choose the one among the two who she feels does not deserve to be in the competition.

Tejasswi says Nishant does not have any identity in the show, to which Nishant gives her a befitting reply by saying: “She keeps complaining and plays the victim card like a kid.”

Gauahar intervenes and in the meanwhile Tejasswi ends up saying: “Nishant she is asking you to shut up.”

Gauahar immediately retorts and says: “Don’t put your words in my mouth”, to which Tejasswi adds: “I said that.”

But Gauahar then again snaps back by saying: “I don’t appreciate it.”

Nishant and Tejasswi’s friendship went haywire after the latter got defeated by Pratik in a recent task. Nishant, who is a good friend of Pratik, stuck by his side which later on disappointed Tejasswi.

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Rohit Shetty set to make OTT debut with ‘Mission Frontline’

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Filmmaker Rohit Shetty, who has entertained audiences with his comedic movies and action thrillers, and also hosted ‘Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi’. is all set to entertain viewer with his OTT debut.

Shetty will be seen in the show ‘Mission Frontline’, which peeps into the lives of armed forces posted on the borders. The show has earlier featured Rana Daggubatti and Sara Ali Khan.

He will step into the shoes of a Special Operations Group soldier and experience how the unit lives and trains in the difficult places they are posted at. The show has been shot at locations in and around Srinagar.

Kunal Kochhar, the show’s director, said Rohit Shetty is synonymous with action, so no one else could be more qualified for the job than him. “Rohit Shetty’s films reflect patriotism, courage and vigour and there couldn’t be a better fit than him for ‘Mission Frontline’,” Kochhar said.

Sharing his experience, he added: “It was an absolutely surreal experience to shoot in the picturesque terrains of Srinagar with the special unit and Rohit’s presence added so much energy to it. Super excited to see a completely different side of Rohit and we’re sure the audience will enjoy watching the show.”

‘Mission Frontline’ will premiere on January 20 on discovery+.

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‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’ trailer: A bouquet of hope, ambition and forgiveness

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Mumbai, Jan 15 (IANS) The trailer of ‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’, an anthology of five short films that highlight stories of hope amid Covid, was released on Saturday.

The anthology features five stories: ‘Teen Tigada’ directed by Ruchir Arun; ‘The Couple’ by Nupur Asthana; ‘Gond Ke Laddu’ by Shikha Makan; ‘War Room’ by Ayappa KM; and ‘Vaikunth’ by Nagraj Manjule of ‘Sairat’ fame. Each showcases the emotions of hope, positivity and forgiveness playing out as the pandemic rages.

Talking about the anthology and his film ‘Teen Tigada’, Ruchir Arun, said: “‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’ anthology boasts of compelling narratives, showcasing a multitude of emotions and we’re really excited to bring our film as part of this anthology. With ‘Teen Tigada’, our effort was to highlight the threshold of human emotions, amidst the tribulations of an ongoing pandemic which hit us like a storm. This film has a unique narrative, beautifully translated on screen by the actors and we hope it will resonate strongly with the masses as well.”

Director Nupur Asthana spoke about her narrative choice saying: “Layoffs were a glaring reality of the pandemic that hit professionals very hard the world over, leaving them uncertain and demotivated.”

Commenting on her film’s core theme, she said: “‘The Couple’ captures the emotional upheaval and complexities caused by such a professional setback and how it impacts personal relationships between two people, altering their realities. The first edition of the anthology beautifully struck a chord with the audience, and we hope now Unpaused Naya Safar will, am sure, open to similar love and appreciation.”

Reflecting on the impact of Covid pandemic, director Shikha Makan said: “The pandemic has affected one and all in ways that are unexpected and uncalled for. We all worry for our loved ones living far away and look for means to connect and care for them even from a distance. And sometimes we find connections with strangers too.”

Shedding light on her film’s idea, she said: “The idea of ‘Gond Ke Laddu’ was to showcase the spectrum of human bonds, but with a twist. It was an enriching experience to shoot this film with an amazing cast and crew who breathed life into this subtle yet substantial narrative. We’re sure the story will connect with the audiences at an emotional level.”

Director Ayappa KM, whose film ‘War Room’ captures the reality of frontline workers, said: “‘War Room’ showcases the vulnerability of frontline workers who encountered unfavorable situations during the outbreak of the pandemic. This is a gripping story that unravels a different facet of human emotion in duress and I owe it to the entire team for bringing it alive so beautifully.”

Vaikunth director Nagraj Manjule, said: “‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’ anthology reflects on a range of emotions with each of its films, and Vaikunth adds on to this with a unique balance of gloom and hope, peppered with unpredictability. We, as a team are humbled and honored to bring this story as part of this anthology and we hope that it stays with the audience for a long time.”

Starring an ensemble cast of Saqib Saleem, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Neena Kulkarni and Priyanshu Painyuli, ‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’, will be available to stream on Prime Video from January 21.

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