At a special event held by Jio MAMI on September 26, Oscar winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya was celebrated by filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker, actor Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and costume designer Shruti Kapoor.
Gowariker, who worked with Athaiya in Lagaan (2001) and Swades (2004), shared how her advice played a crucial role in deciding which year the film Lagaan would be set in. Gowariker revealed that he had originally planned to set the film in 1885 as it was the year the Indian National Congress was formed. He shared “I felt it would be nice to have the birth of the INC and rise of Bhuvan (played by Aamir Khan) as a hero.” However, Athaiya asked him to push the year the film was set in a bit ahead.
Gowariker shared his response to her request and added, “I said I am okay to change the year but asked the reason for it. She explained, ‘Queen Victoria was in mourning. She came out of it around 1890. That’s when all the wardrobe changed from black and grey and became colourful’. I was absolutely blown. That showed how much knowledge she had! Of course I was happy to make the change and that’s how the year changed to 1893.”
Lagaan was set in pre-independent India and depicted the victory of impoverished Indian farmers over the local British officers demanding unreasonable amounts of tax or ‘Lagaan’ from them. The film was directed by Gowariker and starred Khan, Gracy Singh and a large ensemble cast of actors.