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Salvaging Swades

"Swades" may not have opened to house full shows but Ashutosh Gowarikar tells ANUJ KUMAR he still has faith in the public.

Ashutosh Gowarikar,Film Director. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

IF PAST could win 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 in 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 will find some shock value in Swades and that the film will take time in picking up. And in the NewYear, the film has indeed picked up.

Dissect his child, which 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 old maid to the U.S. and finally a feature film that immerses into the polemics of documentary genre - the man who missed the Oscars by a whisker doesn't mind the operation. "It's true that the film moves in 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 through out the film. I agree in parts it looks like a documentary but then realism is not such a bad thing. Any way 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 in promoting the film in smaller centres. However, with the word of mouth spreading 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 territory. "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 audience has become used to see the repetitive Shah Rukh. "No, I don't 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, Amir Khan in Swades. In a crucial scene of the film Ashutosh has used clippings of Yaadon Ki Barat where a toddler Amir 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.

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