Two score years to the day, a milestone had been etched in Indian cinematic history. Both Lagaan and Gadar had released on 15th June 2000, and while it was neither the first time two big movies clashed nor the first or last time both performed well, what separated the Aamir Khan and Sunny Deol starrers is the euphoria both movies generated across the country despite competing with each other. Even their accolades were shared – if the Ashutosh Gowariker film walked away with most of the award, including an Oscar nomination no less (just the third and last time an Indian film achieved the honour), then the Anil Sharma directorial created history at the box office en route to becoming the highest grossing film ever in Indian cinema at the time. To mark 20 years of Lagaan and Gadar and better understand the mass hysteria around both milestone movies, and if it really was a war between them as the media has built up back then, BollywoodLife got in touch with Director Anil Sharma for an exclusive interview.
Rubbishing all past talk of the clash between Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Lagaan spilling beyond the box office, Anil Sharma instead revealed that both films created nothing short of a festival across the nation. “The date, 15th June 2000, was a festival for cinema. Lagaan was also a very good film, I had seen it in the theatre, really enjoyed it and clapped a lot – it was really a great film and brought India a lot of honour. So it had worked very well, Gadar had also worked very well and a festival atmosphere was created throughout India. If people used to watch the 12 pm show of Lagaan, they'd go and see the 3 pm show of Gadar, and if they'd watch the 12 pm show of Gadar, then they'd see the 3 om show of Lagaan (those days, only single theatres ran with fixed timings), making it a craze, a festival for cinema all over India, created a lot of love for cinema in the country, and motivated many people to make good films. So, it wasn't as much a clash as it was a celebration,” said the filmmaker.
Lamenting how makers these days are scared of clashing with each other in theatres, thus stifling the prospect of another such festive atmosphere, Anilji added, “I wish that this happens every year, that we get two such films yearly, but films are not clashing anymore. Nowadays people are afraid to clash – either your film should come or mine is their thought. Those days, both makers were confident about their films and were so sure that forget two, even six films could release simultaneously and work, who'd want to see them, would see them. Today, too, people watch 6-8 episodes on OTT in a stretch at home during lockdown, so they still have the stamina to watch, they watch if they wish to. But, filmmaker don't have the same confidence now, they want to make a whack with their initial in three days and be satisfied. Earlier, people used to look forward to their film running a minimum of 25 weeks, now they're not even interested in them running for three weekend, why are they so scared? It's not like we don't have good filmmakers today, we do, but somehow that perception, that feel, that mindset has changed. But we've seen it can still happen with an Avenger and a Baahubali. People no longer have faith on their own capacity, their capacity only has become zero.”
Revealing his wish that the industry sees more such Lagaans and Gadars, Anil Sahrma concluded, “I hope that those days of festivals and celebrations of cinema happen again every year, we all should hope that. At least, one film a year like Lagaan and Gadar should come on a Friday, where makers aren't afraid which films they clash with. Instead, such films would compensate each other, hug each other and move forward, praise each other, and then you see how much fun everyone would have – public, cinema halls and the industry, all would have fun, that's the atmosphere we need to create, that's the dreamy atmosphere which had occurred between Lagaan and Gadar. I wish this atmosphere takes place at least once every year.”
Well, that's as extensive a throwback that we could've brought you on 20 years of Gadar and Lagaan, and that, too, straight from the horse's mouth. Hope you enjoyed reading the interview as much as we did doing it.
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