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Lagaan trivia all the way

By Shilpa Bharatan Iyer
July 02, 2004 18:41 IST
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Aamir Khan in LagaanChale Chalo: The Making Of An Epic is the first film of its kind to chronicle a Hindi film. Named for a song in the film, Chale Chalo is based on the making of the Oscar-nominated Lagaan (2002) starring Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, and a host of other actors.

Satyajit Bhatkal, Aamir's childhood friend, was asked to put his law practice on hold and help in the making of Lagaan. Though he started out as a member of the production crew, the task of recording the film's making fell on his inexperienced shoulders. But Bhatkal has proved himself, bringing home to viewers the heartache, toil, and sweat that went into Lagaan.

The journey starts with Bhatkal packing to help Aamir in his debut home production. His relationship with Aamir and his family gives him unhindered access to the Khan household.

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The story, which is narrated in turns by Aamir, (director) Ashutosh Gowariker, and Bhatkal, traces the film's journey from the scripting stage to pre-production to completion. It also captures audience response and award functions. It even returns to Bhuj – where Lagaan was shot – after the 2001 earthquake to revisit the building where the artistes had stayed during the shooting.

The film takes you from Aamir's initial reluctance to star in Lagaan to him finally agreeing not only to act in the movie, but also to produce it.

The journey starts with the hunt for a suitable location, finally zeroing in on Kutch. 'Champaner' slowly evolves from an imaginary village to a gobar-and-hay one.

Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh in LagaanChale Chalo chronicles the trials and tribulations of the cast and crew, including A K Hangal's broken waist and the slipped disc suffered by Gowariker when trying to gather an unmanageable 10,000 villagers for the climax and make them respond. Of English actors leaving behind home and family, learning to act in another language, and dealing with the most basic amenities in the middle of a desert. Not to forget the pain of signing on actors who cannot connect bat to ball and, with the magic of editing, making you believe that the Champaner XI could hit boundary after boundary!

The film also gives an insight into the fun and frolic that made the movie seem real. You watch individual actors become a team, as inhibitions drop and the unit comes together.

As Gracy Singh says in the documentary, "I thought I was the heroine, so I would be treated as special. But the reality was quite different. I, too, was made to get up at 4.30am and be in the bus by 5am. Else, the bus would leave without me!" On one occasion, the bus even left without Aamir Khan, the hero and producer of the film, when he was five minutes late!

It captures the glum faces when executive producer Reena Dutta, Aamir Khan's ex-wife, threatens to stop shooting midway unless the pace is accelerated.

Bhatkal has taken what would otherwise have been a dry subject and given it a human face and humour. The three-hour-long Chale Chalo moves at a fast pace, giving you Lagaan trivia all the way.

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Shilpa Bharatan Iyer