Bollywood actor Yashpal Sharma is fondly looking back at the time when he shot for Lagaan in the scorching heat of Bhuj, Gujarat for about six months at a stretch. The film was released 20 years ago on June 15. Many fond memories have remained with him as the unit had become a closely knit family. He remembers well the late night card games that had become a regular group activity after dinner, the early morning bus rides to the location and even the frequent power cuts at the hotel which often left the actors with heavy eyes the next day. But all this was worth because of the accolades the character of Lakha brought Sharma.
“The reception was wonderful. People said the kind of dimension Lakha had, no other character had that kind of depth, apart from the lead actor. I was called the first match fixer in India, and I remember that,” says the actor who betrays his own team in the cricket match against the British but sets on the right path later.
He continues, “I consider myself lucky to have got this role. It has both shades. It feels nice when your work is appreciated. For me, Lagaan is right there with the classics like Mother India and Do Bigha Zamin. It was a pathbreaking film. It stood tall above the notions in Bollywood, like an actor’s image cannot change. Or a character cannot wear a dhoti on screen or if a couple of films on cricket have flopped before, it should not be taken up again. No one will watch a film based on villagers and the poor, they used to say. The success of Lagaan was against all these odds. It wasn’t just the hero’s film. All the characters were highlighted. It has set an example in breaking stereotypes. I always say, if you want to learn how cinema is made, watch Lagaan. The kind of passion, team work, management and discipline that went into making it had never been done before.”
When asked about how did he get this role, he said “I got a pager from the production. Lagaan’s casting was going on for sometime and I got confused as to why they wanted to meet me at this point. I went to their office and Ashutosh (Gowariker) narrated the script for about four hours. I was impressed with his storytelling in that room. I was thinking if I could get Lakha’s role by any chance it would be great. After narration, he said that I am being considered for the same role. I got excited. They asked me to audition at Aamir’s place. 3-4 other characters were also present that day. I was on my way back after the screen test when I got the message that I have been selected. They asked me to come back again for the contract signing. I was thinking about the salary that I could quote for this role. I said to myself, ‘I will ask for Rs 1 lakh and no matter what, won’t do it”. for anything less’. Although, I would have done it for way lesser amount also as I wasn’t working at that time. Reena (Dutta) said that they are giving Rs 1.5 lakh to every actor due to budget constraints. I negotiated the deal and signed the film for Rs 2 lakh. Later, I got to know that I could have got even Rs 5 lakh had I commanded (laughs).
Source: News 18