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Chale Chalo - Review

 
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By Gaurav Malani, IndiaFM
Monday, June 18, 2007
Still from LagaanTill now the making of any film had been only a part of the promotional package of the movie before its release or an additional feature on the DVD after its release. Chale Chalo takes a step further in the direction. Just the thought of making a full-length feature film for the big screen on the making of a film like Lagaan is as implausible as the story idea of Lagaan was, when it was conceptualized and repeatedly rejected. But then Lagaan turned up against all odds and so does the disciple film on its making.

Chale Chalo - The Lunacy of Filmmaking is essentially for lunatics, fanatics and crazy lovers of Hindi cinema. Warning: For those who disapprove of the documentary format of the film, this film is surely not your cup of tea. For all others, you just need a deep passion for films and an open mind.

The film starts with a prologue by Ashutosh Gowariker, the director of Lagaan, where he talks about the conventional norms and rules of Hindi filmmaking and how a filmmaker is not supposed to think outside that domain. Ashutosh himself confesses of having made two films before Lagaan with a similar outlook - Pehla Nasha and Baazi (interestingly he doesn't take credit or even mentions his intermediate film Izzat Ki Roti).

Chale Chalo starts in 1998 when Ashutosh had a rough story idea, which he narrated to Aamir Khan and Aamir instantly disapproved of his unconventional yarn requesting him to drop the idea right away. This hurt Ashutosh but he took the challenge of staying with his idea and wrote down the detailed script. When he re-approached Aamir after six months and asked him to listen to his script-narration, Aamir was totally reluctant. However Ashutosh persuaded him to give it a listen and at the end of the detailed narration, Aamir was a changed man. His preconceived 'NO' turned into an enthusiastic 'YES' and he even decided to produce the film when Ashutosh couldn't find a financer to his avant-garde idea.

So far so good, this story of Chale Chalo till now was much known through the media circuits. The unknown part starts herein and the movie throws out a huge load of Lagaan making trivia. One of the first members to join the production team of Lagaan was Nitin Chandrakant Desai, the art director, with whom Ashutosh set out for a location hunt throughout India to find his town of Champaner in the latter half of 1998. After futile attempts in Rajasthan, Nasik, UP, et al. they zeroed in on the Bhuj village in Kutch by May 1999. Two first-timers who joined in the production team of Lagaan on Aamir's request were Reena Dutta - Aamir's ex-wife and Satyajit Bhatkal - Aamir's childhood friend and the ensuing director of Chale Chalo who gave up his law practice to join the Lagaan team.

The documentary focuses on some interesting aspects of the making of Lagaan like how a building in Kutch was transformed into a hotel to accommodate the 300 plus crewmembers. The nervousness and apprehension shown in both Aamir and Ashutosh's mind on the first day of shoot is very much palpable. One of the best parts of the documentary is the behind-the-scene look at the climax scene picturization (shot well in advance), which included a record 10,000 extras that turn in on the final day of the match in the film. To handle such a massive crowd is no easy task and to appease these free junior artists, Aamir even crooned the Aati Kya Khandala number for them. The scenes showcasing Aamir's birthday celebration on sets, cast and crew playing Holi, a real match played between the Indian and British team where the latter win and a British crew couple marrying by traditional Indian rituals truly focus the spirit of the Lagaan team.

The better part of the documentary is that it is chronologically edited and does not muddle up like the standard 'making of films' formats that feature on a DVD. Also the pace is fast and the flow does not evoke boredom. Background score used from the original movie soundtrack adds to the effect. Thankfully the documentary also stays away from being outright preachy. Monologues of Ashutosh, Aamir and Reena Dutta cover a major part of the film though each has been recorded individually (seemingly after Aamir and Reena's breakup).

On the flipside, one wishes that a strong voiceover (like that of Amitabh Bachchan in the original film) could have invigorated the proceedings more. Director Bhatkal's narration falls feeble at times. Moreover his repeated recollection of his wife Swati towards the end tends to get monotonous. Also the timing of a film is a little late.

Nevertheless Bhatkal makes a sincere attempt at celebrating the spirit of Lagaan without any money-making intentions (as the film has been hardly publicized). At the end, Chale Chalo may go in as an important lesson in filmmaking schools. A must see for all aspiring filmmakers!

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