Ashutosh Gowariker on Mohenjo Daro and what goes into making a movie from a different era
When Ashutosh Gowariker sets out to do a film, expectations are naturally sky high. After offerings like Jodhaa Akbar and Lagaan, the 52-year-old director announced this project back in 2014 on the ancient settlement of Mohenjo Daro (of Indus Valley Civilisation). “It is about our civilisation and if you look at world cinema, movies have been made on Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilisations, and I thought why not make a movie on our first civilisation, something that is very close to us,” begins Gowariker who is busy promoting the movie in Mumbai.
This is his second collaboration with Hrithik Roshan. “He has played Akbar and to play Sarman was much more fun for him, since Sarman is a more carefree person and it came easily to Hrithik,” the Mumbai-based director says. For Chaani, his heroine, he wanted a fresh face who had no baggage of a previous character and hence zeroed in on 25-year-old Pooja Hegde. Teaming up with AR Rahman for the fifth time, Gowariker shares that, “In the song Sindhu Ma, the music takes you to a different era.”
Brick by brick
Gowariker started off by reading numerous books on archaeology and the Indus Valley Civilisation. “I came across Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, an American archaeologist who has studied the Harappa and Indus Valley for 35 years and is the head of the anthropology department at University of Wisconsin,” shares the filmmaker, going on to explain how he invited Kenoyer to India for a seminar with five other archaeologists. This exercise alone took him two years. The end result, “is the most responsible imagination of what could have been,” the director assures. Reinforcing his focus on details, he tells us that even the brick size adheres to historical finds and so does to the size and shape of the great bath (public water tank used during the Harappa civilisation). However, he accepts that due to limited information available on that era, a large part is fiction and details like jewellery, clothes and the kind of religion they followed or if they followed a religion at all, needed to be imagined.
Real vs reel
While the trailer drew a lot criticism about his depiction of the historical era, Gowariker says, “In archaeology and history there are many different chains of thought. There is a lot of debate about whose study is more accurate, and when you are making a movie, you have to take one path. I chose Kenoyer’s path.” The director remains unfazed and adds, “In the end I am not a historian. I am just making a film. I was expecting it (criticism) but it did not worry me.”
Mohenjo Daro is scheduled to release on August 12.
— Saloni Sinha