Gold director Reema Kagti: India has such a glorious tradition of hockey, felt I should make a film on it
After the 2012 neo-noir thriller Talaash: The Answer Lies Within, featuring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor, Reema Kagti returns as writer-director with the sports drama, Gold. When she was researching subjects, one of her filmmaker friends, Ankur Tiwari, said that she should look at the 1948 Olympics and the first gold medal India won in hockey as a free nation. “I had heard of hockey legends and when I started reading, I realised what a glorious tradition of hockey India had. Unfortunately, I was unaware of it. It was like a wealth of information. The material jumped out and I felt I should make a film out of it,” says Kagti.
Kagti quickly realised that while we had won medals earlier, this one was special and in the course of her readings, stumbled on a gentleman, who had been the assistant manager of the Indian hockey squad during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and risen to the rank of the manager during the London Olympics 12 years later. “His life has loosely inspired Akshay Kumar’s character who, in a bid to galvanise the players in Berlin, pulls out the flag of the Indian National Congress in the locker room during half-time. The flag was banned in Germany at the time but still inspired respect and all the players saluted it. When I read this story, I felt I had found my film. That incident is a defining moment in the inception of my film. Though all the hockey greats and legends — each one in their own right deserve a biopic on their own, I wanted to tell a bigger story,” says the writer-director, adding, “The film is based on the 1948 win and it’s a completely fictionalised account of a real incident, so there are several characters inspired by real people and some characters are a combination of two.”
Akshay was Kagti’s first and the last choice. “When you see the film, you will realise that he fits the part well. The character was written as a Bengali and Akshay threw himself into the part. It was like a dream cast for me. He was the perfect ‘Tapan Das’ I could find. He has the physicality that really suited the part. He did a little bit of dialogue coaching but mostly he mixed around with his Bengali friends and his accent was in place. He used his Kolkata experience to build his character,” says Kagti. And when told that the superstar believes in making his characters —derived from real life stories — more commercial and viewer-friendly obviously for more eye-balls, she says, “Yes, he likes to commercialise; he makes a huge effort to do that. He has got great energy; he brings a lot to the table. He is also great fun to have around on sets. It was a superb experience working with Akshay."
And while there has been some confusion about Akshay’s role, with many thinking that he plays a coach but the actor recently clarified that he plays the team manager. The director puts things in perspective saying, "He is playing a manager who in those days was actually a coach but they were called managers.”
Gold marks the first collaboration between Akshay Kumar and producers Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani. It has been shot in Yorkshire, the Midlands and Mumbai. The ensemble cast includes Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Vineet Kumar Singh and Sunny Kaushal, and marks the film debut of television actress Mouni Roy. “My casting director showed me several actresses on tape and when I saw Mouni's first test, I was convinced that she was the one we were looking for. She haa done such a good job. She’s playing Tapan Das's wife and her part is fun,” she says.
Kagti, who made her debut with the critically acclaimed film Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd (2007) as writer-director followed by Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012), has a vast experience in story and screenwriting as she’s scripted winners like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do among others. She has also worked as an assistant director with many leading directors including Farhan Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya), and Ashutosh Gowariker (Lagaan).
Besides long gaps between the releases, all of Kagti’s three films belong to completely different genres to which she says, “I really don’t know what is going to catch my fancy next. I’m being asked this question often these days. It just depends on what idea grabs my attention and then I follow that. Also, I always try to make this clear that these gaps are not because of anything that I am doing. In fact, I don’t want such long gaps. But filmmaking is a strange business; things at times get called off and sometimes things take long to pass. I was working on this film for the past seven to eight years. Before that we (producer Ritesh Sidhwani and her) were trying to do another film called 'Mr Chalu.' So, I was a bit busy with that.”
There were many challenges for Kagti to make the historical sports drama that sort of encompasses a very important and crucial time for India as a nation. Was it difficult to recreate that era? “Of course, it’s a 12 year period from 1936 to 1948. There were a lot of things that didn’t exist then — the cars, the structures. It was more of a challenge than a difficulty and making a period film was itself a challenge,” says Kagti, further adding, “Then, having such a big cast, crew and so many locations was quite tough. The boys really had a gruelling schedule. And the biggest challenge for me was dealing with the England weather, within the same hour weather changed constantly. Shooting outdoors was a nightmare. But I had fun. I had a superb crew and a great cast that really backed me,” Kagti concluded.
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2018 14:12:48 IST
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