Stereotypy is Inevitable in Indian Cinema

ABU DHABI — ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ was the first movie to open the Muslim Cultures of Bombay Cinema festival in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night and its director, Ashutosh Gowariker, took time off from shooting of his latest movie in India, to be with his fans here.


Silvia Radan

Published: Sat 28 Feb 2009, 10:09 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:34 AM

Telling the 16–century love story of Jodhaa, afiery Hindu Rajput princess, who married Akbar, the great Moghul emperor, the 213-minute historical movie released last year received as much acclaim as the controversy it had created and Gowariker took time for Khaleej Times readers to explain why.

“As I explained earlier, stereotypy is often inevitable in Indian cinema, but I believe it is harmful to stick to stereotypes, so, in ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, I tried to maintain a blend of everything and reduce stereotype to the minimum,” he said.

“Take the title of the movie, for example. In traditional Indian society, the ladies don’t come first and putting Jodhaa’s name before that of Akbar was unexpected, breaking the rules,” he added.

The controversy surrounding the movie cost Gowariker its release in the Indian state of Rajasthan, but, as the director pointed out, how can you ban satellite screening or DVD releases? “The controversy was completely uncalled for and I ultimately won the case, but the harm was already done,” said Gowariker.

Since there are no documents or recordings of what happened in the boudoir of these historical figures, the story took more from imagination and logical interpretation than facts.

Still, Gowariker claims he spent two years researching the story, which was ultimately backed by the descendants of the couple and Indian historians. “I wanted to make this film because I was always fascinated by India’s intercultural relationships,” he explained.

Actor, director, writer and producer, Gowariker is considered one of India’s best, his filmography includes the much acclaimed Baazi (1995), Lagaan (2001), Swades (2004) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008). Lagaan even received an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category and it eventually got Gowariker a voting membership in the Academy Awards in 2005.

“It was not the first, not the second, but Akbar, the third Moghul emperor of India to achieve the title of ‘Akbar The Great’ and I often wondered why. What did he do to achieve greatness,” said Gowariker, explaining his choice of the story.

“It was always taken for granted that Jodhaa married him – and this was not an arranged marriage, it was a political alliance,” he continued.

“I also wondered how the marriage evolved. How did Jodhaa influence Akbar’s mind to such extent that he achieve greatness. These things preoccupied my mind, so I tried to explore and look for answers through the movie,” revealed Gowariker.

On his return to India, Gowariker will go back to shooting his latest film, ‘What’s Your Rashee’. “Rashee means star sign, because the West follows the zodiac, while India follows the lunar calendar,” he explained.

The new movie is an adventure into unknown waters, a romantic comedy that Gowariker is tackling for the first time in his career.

“It’s about a boy studying in Chicago, who is forced to get married to save his family from bankruptcy.

“He places a matrimonial advertisement and 176 girls reply, but he only has six days to decide, so he chooses to meet one girl from every star sign,” he revealed.

The movie will be released in India in September.

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