Columbia Tristar, Miramax to release Akbar Khan's 'TAJ MAHAL'??By Manisha Deshpande
11/5/2004 12:00:00 AM
The 'modern quickie' set in current times will be called "Taxi Driver". His "Changez Khan", another historical, will have to wait now.
Akbar says: "It took me more than 20 years to direct a second feature film after my first film 'Haadsa'. But my third and fourth film will follow in quick success. 'Taxi Driver' will be followed by another historical 'Changez Khan'.
"From the Mughal emperors I am going straight into the word of taxis," says the director.
Akbar says his four-year-old daughter Aaliya has inspired him to make the film.
Akbar is scouting for a child artist and says: "I am looking for a magical child like Ayesha Kapoor in 'Black' who I think took everyone in the cast by surprise. He's going to be a superstar after this film."
Akbar wants to cast Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen or Priyanka Chopra as the mother.
About the Pakistani leading lady Sonya Jehan in "Taj Mahal", Akbar Khan says: "A friend of mine from Jeddah told me about this grand-daughter of the legendary singer Noorjehan. I was immediately hooked."
This intimate film will certainly cost far less than "Taj Mahal", which Akbar says, cost $16.2 million.
Why attempt such an audacious costume drama?
"I decided on my first visit to the "Taj Mahal" in Agra that I will make a film on it. Every slab of marble wove a mystery around me.
"Shahjahan (Mughal emperor Shahjahan) was the greatest lover in the world. I wanted to make a film about his timeless homage to love and the empress' dying wish to immortalise her. I was simply awed by that thought!"
In this era of shrunken visions and multiplex theatres why such a huge film?
"I have always dabbled with larger-than-life subjects. I directed the initial 20 episodes of 'The Sword Of Tipu Sultan'. Then I tackled 'Akbar The Great'. I have a deep-rooted affinity to history.
"I certainly believe filmmakers should never tamper with history. That's misleading the audience. 'Taj Mahal' is authentic to history."
Commenting on his first film "Haadsa" that came in 1983, Akbar says: "I remember the film's leading lady Smita Patil's father told me it was one of Smita's finest films and performances.
Two years later 'Fatal Attraction' (Hollywood film starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close) did the same story. I was flattered. For once it seemed as though we were being copied by Hollywood."
He's very hurt by the flak "Taj Mahal" has got from critics.
"I am taking it in my stride. When I visit theatres screening the film I get to hear another story. Seeing the audiences' response, I am sure the film will pick up by word of mouth."
"I admit I am a great admirer of 'Mughal-E-Azam' and K. Asif. Cecil de Mille, David Lean and K. Asif are my inspiration for larger-than-life films.
"It took me two-years to research. Then for six months we put together the artefacts, the jewellery, costumes and weaponry. The artistes then went through vigorous acting, dancing and diction classes. We held workshops with them."
He stands by his relatively modest cast.
"All I can say is, if I had cast Aamir (actor Aamir Khan), Salman (actor Slaman Khan) or Shah Rukh Khan as Khurram it would have been totally contrary to my vision.
"Zulfi Syed (Zulfikar Syed who plays young Shahjahan in the film) looks like a prince personified. I supervised everything, right from his walk to intonation. Every cast member and crew put his or heart into 'Taj Mahal'."
"I am saying this for the first time. This film has cost a little over Rs.750 million to make."
And now he moves into two new films.
"I pray that I get back at least some of my investments in 'Taj Mahal' so I can go on making films."