|Aamir Khan is India's biggest star, and knows exactly what it takes to make a
hit. So when his writer-director friend Ashutosh Gowariker presented him
with the script for Lagaan, Khan (pictured) immediately declined. "Lagaan
breaks every rule of mainstream Indian cinema," he says of the story about a
band of ragtag villagers in 1893 who play cricket against their British
occupiers, trying to win a repeal of the lagaan, or land tax. "First, period
films don't work. Second, sports films don't work, either. Third, we have
British actors speaking English. And finally, the director is not a
success." But Khan couldn't forget the script, and after it brought his wife
and parents to tears, Khan not only took the lead, he became a producer. "If
I was going to act, I couldn't risk someone making compromises halfway,"
Khan says. He's used his degree of control over the $5 million budget to
bring the film away from the Bollywood assembly line. "Normally, Indian
actors work six or eight films at a time, and after we finish shooting, six
months later, we record the sound," Khan says. "As an actor, I always
thought these things lose my performance, so as a producer, I did things my
way" that is, with a cast and crew undistracted by other projects, and
dialogue recorded live. (Not to mention 10,000 extras.) Khan says the film
isn't political "These people didn't care who ruled in Delhi, they just
wanted their children not to starve" but he's proud of its underlying
theme. "We show Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, British, everyone coming together,"
Khan says. "That's what this film is about." Opens May 10.