July 9 2016
Star director and actor come to London to talk about their forthcoming historical epic…
BOLLYWOOD director Ashutosh Gowariker is one of a different breed.
Probably best known in the West for his Oscar-nominated “Lagaan” (2001), he makes intelligent films, which often pass some of form of reflection or comment on Indian society, more generally.
His latest film “Mohenjo Daro” – to be released on August 12 – has already created much excitement with the trailer clocking up more than a million views in a matter of days and the music by Oscar and Grammy winning AR Rahman is also causing quite the stir.
Gowariker (pictured below) and Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan – the lead in Mohenjo Daro – both made a flying visit to London to introduce the film to the press here.
(See our interview with Hrithik Roshan; the mini press conference and later, we will publish our longer video one-to-one interview with Asuhtosh Gowariker).
Set in 2016BCE (before the Common Era) – yes some 4,000 years ago, Gowariker takes us on a special journey to one of the first civilisations on earth.
“It was totally unplanned,” Gowariker said in a pre-amble before a screening of the trailer to the press at the London launch onThursday (July 7).
“It was after museum visits I would get enamoured seeing artefacts and when I was making ‘Lagaan’ in Bhuj (Gujarat state), I stumbled upon Dholavira – an exhibition site and for some time I kept feeling I must make a movie about this.”
The city of Mohenjo Daro really existed and was only discovered in 1920 as an archaeological site after it was abandoned more or less, as a city, by around 1800BCE.
It was part of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation, a collection of settlements that extended from modern day Iran right through into the fertile plains of modern North India. Very little of those settlements survived beyond 1800BCE and the only evidence we have of their existence is through archaeological excavations.
Gowariker said he has tried to be as historically accurate as possible, but that it was far from straightforward as archaeology was all even experts have to go on.
“The story is based on the excavations. I had a lot of help from archaeologists, especially Dr Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and several Indian archaeologists who have all worked on the Indian sites,” explained Gowariker.
He said in terms of dress there were limits to how far he could go to be strictly accurate.
“Of the figurines that have survived – the women are naked – I didn’t want to go that way, so I’ve had to fill in the blanks and build on my imagination.
“They used a lot of feathers of animals to adorn themselves and rose petals for their lips,” he revealed.
In the literature there is a lot about the trade that existed – the Indus Valley settlements were known to have links with the Sumerians (of the Middle East) and the Egyptians.
Some have already claimed from the trailer that the film is historically inaccurate, but Gowariker countered: “I cannot say they are wrong in their reservations, but neither can they say I am wrong because no one knows – I have created a world of make believe and it’s as accurate as the information I’ve been given.
“The architecture – the great bath that you see in the trailer is the same size as the one in Mohenjo Daro and the sizes of the houses too.”
Asked about the language used in the film by www.asianculturevulture.com’s Suman Bhuchar, Gowariker said he wanted to make it different to contemporary Hindi.
Not too much is known about the language of Mohenjo Daro, the surviving script (resembling symbols has not been deciphered) but experts have traced some remnants of it to the modern-day language of Sindhi (spoken in that region), with one or two dialects thought to be even more directly correlated.
“I have used a mesh of languages otherwise it becomes very contemporary and very close to our own world.
“I went further back at a cost of alienating the audience a bit but it is necessary to allow the audience into that world. There is nothing difficult here,” he explained.
He also said that Roshan (pictured above), one of the standout Bollywood stars, and an actor who has enjoyed a 20-year long career, was always his first choice for the role of Samran, the indigo farmer in the film.
Gowariker worked with Roshan in “Jodhaa Akbar” (2006) – another historical epic set in the 16th century of Mughal India.
“Hrithik has the ability to make any world believable and he has the ability to create a certain conviction in the creative world,” stated Gowariker.
His female lead, Pooja Hegde (pictured above) is a newcomer to film and was spotted by Gowariker’s producer wife, Sunita, in an advert.
“It took some time,” Gowariker confessed. “We were looking for the right choice – someone who had dignity and grace and could hold a shot. She was very good, extremely sharp and wanted to be an actor.”
He has not talked much about the plot, which has a romance at the heart of it, but it seems likely that there is some connection between Sarman (Roshan), the indigo farmer, the central character of the film and the present day.
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