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banner Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Lagaan breaks the mould
Still from Lagaan
Lagaan is a period drama set in the 19th century
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

Film stars taking to producing films is fast becoming the new trend in the Indian film industry, Bollywood.

Lagaan (Taxes) - the first movie produced by one of India's hottest screen superstars, Aamir Khan - was released last week in cinemas across the country and is having a dream run at the box office.


My father and uncle have been producers for the last 35-40 years

Aamir Khan
Set in the 19th Century during the British Raj, the film revolves around cricket and nationalism, both emotive issues for many Indians.

It was shot in six months from start to finish - unusual for Bollywood where films can take up to three years to complete.

Lagaan also features British actors Rachel Shelley and Paul Blackthorne.

But the film is being talked about more for being the first offering from its actor-turned-producer than for its storyline.

Star producer

Lagaan may have haunting melodies but unlike most Bollywood films, it's not just a song and dance extravaganza.

A period drama, the film's rural setting is a departure from the prevailing trend where nine out of 10 movies are urban campus romances.

Still from Lagaan
The lead actor is star-turned-producer Aamir Khan
According to Aamir Khan, production was not his first choice.

"My father and uncle have been producers for the last 35-40 years and I've seen the stress and strain they have gone through. It's not something I thought would be my cup of tea," he told the BBC.

Big star or not, all film makers are increasingly aware of the role of marketing if the film is to do well at the box office and Aamir launched a massive promotional drive in the run-up to Lagaan's release.

Lagaan was made at a cost of $7m, not a small amount by Bollywood standards.


They want to be in the driving seat, they want to call the shots, they want to control each and every frame of that virtual world that they create

Film maker Mahesh Bhatt
But it's not just the lure of big money which is drawing top stars to production.

"It's easier to do a movie, take your money and go home irrespective of whether the movie is a hit or a flop but here there's a bigger risk involved," says film critic Omar Qureshi.

"They want to do quality cinema and they feel the best way they can do it is to produce the movie themselves. I think it's logical."

Challenging

Bollywood has powerful studios and producers but it's the handful of top stars who call the shots because they draw in the big audiences.

Film maker Mahesh Bhatt says it's this larger than life image of Bollywood superstars which is pushing them to take on a bigger role.

Box office sign
Lagaan has been a sell-out in its opening days
"The quest for power, the quest for complete and total control is what pushes filmstars to take over the job of producers.

"They want to be on the driving seat, they want to call the shots, they want to control each and every frame of that virtual world that they create. Kings have done that for centuries so why not stars in the world of movies?"

Film critics may find the nearly four-hour-long Lagaan a bit of a drag and in need of a sharp editor.

But movie lovers across India have given a thumbs up to their favourite star's first production and in its opening week the film is already being talked about as Bollywood's biggest hit in recent times.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangeeta Mhaiskar
"It is the most expensive Hindi film ever made"
The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay
"It's not just a song and dance extravaganza"
See also:

09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bollywood 'underworld' film is sell-out
12 Feb 01 | South Asia
Seized Bollywood movie gets release
31 Mar 00 | South Asia
Bollywood goes dot.com
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