Aamir Khan on 20 years of Lagaan: Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar had warned me not to take a ‘big risk’ as a debut producer
June 15, 2021 marks 20 years since the release of Lagaan.
Talking about what a huge challenge the film was, particularly for a first time producer, Aamir said filmmakers Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar had been concerned since this was a massive project. They had also warned him not to take a risk with numerous aspects of the movie, including sync sound, which was not a popular concept back then (sound recorded at the same time as filming).
Aamir said, “When I had decided to make Lagaan, I knew I was taking on a huge challenge because it’s a very unusual film, very demanding. Just a few weeks before I left for shooting, I met with Adi Chopra and Karan Johar. They are very good friends of mine and they were genuinely concerned. They said, ‘You are making such a big film as your first production, shooting in single schedule and using sync sound. Shoot for 30 days, and see how it turns out. Don’t go single schedule, you’ll have no time to correct your mistakes. Don’t do sync sound, because no one has done it for the longest time. It will delay your shooting. Get dialogues dubbed later, be sensible.’ (sic)”
However, Aamir Khan admitted that he did not heed their advice. Instead, the rest of the film industry ended up following Aamir’s way of filmmaking, with single schedules and sync sound, after the success of his methods and Lagaan itself. Aamir was also the first person to bring in an Assistant Director for films.
Aamir explained, “I had actually wanted to do sync sound and single schedule shooting for at least five years before that. I had been telling directors since 1995 to do sync sound because the emotion that I was creating while shooting was being wasted, and then I had to recreate that same emotion while dubbing. These were things I had always wanted to try as an actor and my producers would not listen to me. They were not confident of doing it. So when I became producer, I said main toh karunga. I brought in the single schedule shoot, sync sound and also the first AD (Assistant Director) system (sic).”
Apoorva Lakhia was roped in as the first assistant director for Lagaan. “One of the reasons he was locked as the first AD was because he was Gujarati. We needed someone to be able to communicate with the local people in Kutch where we were shooting. It was a big film to handle as the first AD, and he did a great job. He has become a director now,” Aamir said happily.
The Lagaan actor went on to talk about how his experiment as a producer had impacted other filmmakers’ styles too. “It has now been 20 years and I’ve only done sync sound since then. All my films are shot in a single schedule, and have a first AD system. And as a comic aside, let me also add that after advising me not to do all these things, Adi and Karan follow exactly this. They shoot in one schedule, with sync sound and and they all have first AD systems,” he added.
He also spoke about how becoming a producer had Lagaan had helped his career immensely. Aamir said, “As an actor, it dramatically changed my life. Suddenly, all the films I was doing were single schedule, I was able to work on the character and prep properly. Earlier, I used to dub each film, and struggle to recreate a good scene in the dubbing studio. So being a producer has actually made a big difference to my acting career, because I was able to bring in these processes that changed my life as an actor.”
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