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June 27, 2001

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SUNNYSUNNY

Sarita Tanwar

Ever since Gadar - EK Prem Katha and Lagaan released on June 15, they have been running neck and neck.

Lagaan had everything going for it. Aamir Khan left no stone unturned to make sure his first step into production created as much curiosity as manís first step on the moon.

There were many rounds of the press; there was TV and online publicity; there was constant coverage in all national dailies, thanks to the efficient PRO, the backing of a huge publishing house like the Times Of India and the cherry on the pudding -- a cover story in India Today. Of course, A R Rahmanís scintillating music was a big plus, too.

In comparison, Gadar - Ek Prem Katha had nothing going for it. Its shy hero wanted his film to do the talking... And it turned out to be the right decision -- the film turned out to be a dark horse.

No one expected the Sunny starrer to run neck and neck with Aamirís XI, but it happened.

Besides proving to be the surprise hit of the year, Gadar - EK Prem Katha also came in for a controversy.

Some theatres in the US deleted inflammatory parts of the film. There was a case of rioting at a theatre in Ahemdabad and the Muslim lobby asked for a ban on the film.

Sources say that Sunny Deol wanted Gadar - EK Prem Katha released on the same day as Lagaan. In fact, insiders insist that Deol laid down this precondition before he dubbed for the film.

We nailed the director of Gadar - Ek Prem Katha, Anil Sharma, for some answers. He crushes the rumour with a moment's hesitation: "We had decided we would release our film on June 15. It had nothing to do with Lagaan. And before you ask me, I never even considered postponing the release of my film to avoid the clash. I was that confident of my product.

"I had told the producer that this film would be a winner. Anyway, our country's population is so high that even if ten films released together, the theatres will all be full if the audiences liked the film."

Gadar - Ek Prem Katha has smashed records and has left Lagaan panting behind in North India.

In fact, many theatres are going in for extra screenings of the film. Says Sharma, "Why just the North circuit, C P and Berar? My film is a hit everywhere. It is a big hit in Bombay. There have been many requests to start a early morning show in Bombay as well.

"But I donít think we want to do that. Earlier, we were running the film at matinees in some theatres. We stopped that and ran them as main shows. Now, theatre owners are demanding that we bring the film back for the matinee show as well, to control the long queues.

"The second week business of Gadar - Ek Prem Katha was better than the first week and the third week is better than the second. In Bombay alone, Gadar - EK Prem Katha will do a business of Rs 200 million.

"Gadar is the biggest hit in Bombay. Overseas, too, in UK, USA and Cananda, Gadar is a big hit. In Canada, people are throwing money in the theatres -- they love the film so much."

How did the director feel about certain sections of people being offended by Gadar - Ek Prem Katha and asking for a ban on the film? "I am aware of that. But these people havenít seen the film -- they are just reacting to hearsay.

"My film is not communal. It is about patriotism. It is about the way the people of India feel.

"I am aware that some miscreants tried to create trouble in Ahemdabad, too. I am very aware of what is happening wherever my film is running. But these incidents are being highlighted out of context. If the film is running in 1,000 centres and if there is a problem in three of four theatres, I donít think it is anything to worry about."

Anilís detractors allege that he used sensationalism to sell his film. He deliberately chose a subject that was delicate. To which he says, "I would request people to go and see my film, not to listen to any rumours. There is no sensationalism in my film.

"Gadar IS a Prem Katha. It has a certain earthiness about it. People identify with the film. Both for those who have been through the Partition and for the new generation, my film is a chapter in history. They can learn from my film,Ē stressed the film-maker.

There have been rumours that many portions of the film that hurt the sentiments of the minority communities have been deleted from the film in the overseas market to woo the Muslim audiences.

Anil Sharma states, ďNo, thatís not true, to the best of my knowledge besides, there is no reason to delete anything. There is nothing controversial about the film. If people are finding certain scenes and dialogues offensive, they are merely situational and are not meant to be for effect.

"I would urge the people to see the film and decide for themselves."

Has he seen the 'other' film? Anil Sharma hesitates: ďNo, I havenít seen Lagaan. But I want to. I have been very busy. And am overwhelmed by the reaction and love of the people of the industry.

"My phones havenít stopped ringing. I want to call everybody and thank them personally for their wishes. But I have just been too tied up...Ē

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