Mumbai: Today, as “Lagaan” completes 20 years, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan romances the good old days when he shot the film, which eventually became India's third-ever official entry at the Oscars in best foreign feature film category. While he confesses picking one memory from that incredible journey is tough for him, he recalls a few unforgettable ones.
He remembers actor Paul Blackthorne, for instance, the English actor who played the much-hated antagonist Captain Russell. Aamir remembers Russell as a "gentle giant" off-camera, who would read out "Winnie The Pooh" to everyone.
"Paul Blackthorne who played the villain, in real life he is such a sweetheart. He is a gentle giant and so soft-spoken. He was always laughing, always joking around. We had a massive make-up room where all of us used to get ready. The person who used to be entertaining all of us was Paul. He would sit on his chair and read 'Winnie the Pooh' aloud. Every morning, we'd sit, get our makeup done and he'd be reading 'Winnie The Pooh' loudly and we'd enjoy it. Captain Russel would read out Winnie The Pooh to us," Aamir tells IANS, as he bursts out laughing recalling the memory.
Another of Aamir's favourite recollections is of how the Gayatri Mantra prepared the entire unit for a gruelling day's shoot ahead.
For Aamir, as well as the entire unit, "Lagaan" has been a chapter that will always be integral to their lives. It is a reason why he has stayed in touch with the team.
"I am in touch with Paul, Rachel Shelley (who played Elizabeth), with all other actors. Until five months back we had a Whatsapp group. Then I stopped using a cellphone, so I'm not a part of it," Aamir says.
Aamir says he did not expect the kind of response the film garnered post release. The reaction to the climactic cricket match in the story, which occupies the last hour of the film, was a pleasant surprise, too. "People in the theatres in the last one hour used to convert it into a stadium. The audience would shout, 'Bhuvan! Bhuvan!' We didn't expect this kind of a response. It was a dream response," he sums up.
Indeed, it is a dream response that the film still continues to see, after two decades.