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Salvaging Swades

"Swades" may not have opened to full houses, but Ashutosh Gowarikar still has faith in the public.



Ashutosh Gowarikar... Realism is not such a bad thing. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

IF THE past could win over the present his product would have been on the podium, if noble intentions could suffice for a script his film would have been a success. It was not to be, and in the New Year Ashutosh Gowarikar descends to the Capital to resuscitate his Swades.

"I was a little upset when the film didn't open according to my expectations on December 17. At the same time I knew after Lagaan, people would find some shock value in Swades, and the film would take time in picking up. And in the New Year, the film has indeed picked up."

The film mocks at the usual Bollywood fare in terms of treatment - a script sans crests and troughs, a screenplay devoid of drama, where characters are not black and white, where till intermission the hero's focus is how to take his aged maid to the U.S. and finally, a feature film that immerses into the polemics of the documentary genre - but the man who missed the Oscars by a whisker doesn't mind the comparison. "It's true the film moves on a straight path and doesn't have the dramatic situations people are used to. But it is not that I faltered in treatment. It was a conscious effort. If I had wished, I could have made the Haridas scene very dramatic, but I wanted to follow a subtle approach throughout the film. I agree in parts it looks like a documentary, but then realism is not such a bad thing. Anyway, the success rate of formula films is quite dismal. There is no point in comparing it with Lagaan as I can't make a Lagaan again. That's why I am appealing to the people not to go by reviews or the past and judge it on its own merit."

Biggest villain

He continues, "People say there is no villain in the movie, but I feel Swades has the biggest villain Bollywood has seen, bigger than even Gabbar Singh - it is the Ravan in our minds. The Ramlila episode captures the point." However, in a country where concepts have always been spoon-fed through living forms, Ashutosh's message seems to have missed the target. Has he failed at the promotional campaign? "I don't write scripts keeping in mind whether they will work in A-towns or B-towns, but I think we should have devised some strategy for promoting the film in smaller centres. However, with word-of-mouth publicity, people are taking interest. Bihar and Central Province territories have asked for more prints. Some NGOs have come forward to take the film to villages because the film's focus coincides with their centre of attention."

He adds that interestingly the film is doing reasonably well in metros and overseas. "It is doing well in the U.S. and is steady in the U.K. However, because of the Tsunami devastation, there are no concrete reports about the Tamil version." He asserts that right now he is not looking at awards and concentrating on pushing for commercial success of his multi crore-budget venture.

Shah Rukh factor

The film captures Shah Rukh in flesh and blood of Mohan Bhargav, the character. Something that he has not done for quite some time, ironically, without regretting. Ashutosh, however, doesn't regard the audience as used to seeing the repetitive Shah Rukh. "No, I don't see this as the reason for the initial setback. I believe the story as a whole and the treatment shocked people. At the same time I always believe in the old song `Ye Jo Public Hai Ye Sab Janti Hai'."

The man may not be looking at honours, but he has not forgotten the driver of his Oscar vehicle, Aamir Khan in Swades. In a crucial scene of the film Ashutosh has used clippings of Yaadon Ki Barat where a toddler Aamir is shown singing the title song. "It is just a matter of chance. Yaadon Ki Barat happens to be my favourite film." We know chance remains the operative word in Bollywood.

ANUJ KUMAR

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