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When Ashutosh Gowariker had Lagaan team in splits: Birthday special

Rajesh Khale, assistant cinematographer on the film, reveals an interesting incident that happened during the shooting.

Keyur Seta

Actor-filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker is best known for his magnum opus Lagaan (2001). The Aamir Khan-starrer is easily one of the more loved Hindi films. It also reached the last five in the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2002.

Over the years, many behind-the-scenes tales from the film have been told by people from the unit. But we have laid our hands on an incident from the shooting of Lagaan that has probably never been shared before. On Gowariker’s 53rd birthday (15 February), let us revisit the incident when the filmmaker had the entire unit in splits, though unintentionally.

Rajesh Khale was assistant cinematographer on Lagaan. He revealed the incident in a conversation with Cinestaan.com.

“There was a discussion going on for a shoot during the ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ song between Ashutosh, Aamir and Gracy Singh. While giving instructions, Ashutosh said, ‘Aap dono [Aamir and Gracy] turn karne ke baad hug do'." As soon as the words escaped his lips, the whole unit burst out laughing, said Khale. Naturally, because while the director wanted the lead pair to turn and embrace, his 'Hinglish' instruction sounded as if he wanted them to defecate.

The laughter attack did not stop soon. “We couldn’t resume shooting for around an hour and a half," said Khale. "We just kept laughing. As soon as the shot was to be taken, we would crack up. Cinematographer Anil Mehta is normally a very serious person, but even he couldn’t control his laughter. I guess everyone connected with Lagaan will always remember this incident.”

The moment remains special for Khale, but for a serious reason. “According to me, this was the most amazing moment from the shoot," he said. "We had become one family during the shooting which lasted six months. This was my first experience with such a professional unit. So I remember and will always remember the laugh we had for so long.”