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Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Alien Has Landed

TWENTY-ONE years after Steven Speilberg made ET, Jadoo has landed. India’s first alien is also lovable and armed with special powers. ...

Written by Shradha Sukumaran |
August 10, 2003

TWENTY-ONE years after Steven Speilberg made ET, Jadoo has landed.

India’s first alien is also lovable and armed with special powers. Yet Rakesh Roshan’s Koi…Mil Gaya is a double deal—it’s not just Jadoo’s story. It’s Rohit’s as well, the 17-year-old with the ‘‘mind of a child’’ played by hunky Hrithik. ‘‘This was supposed to be our third film together,’’ says Hrithik of dad Rakesh, ‘‘We were venturing into an area ‘alien’ to the audience and my dad wanted to make something safer first. He even wrote another screenplay. It took me 7-8 months to convince him to do this.’’

When Roshan finally decided to take the leap, he knew he needed an alien people would instantly fall in love with. ‘‘Frankly, I didn’t even consider India. With my script, I knew I didn’t need a dummy. We needed one that talked, walked, emoted—not a robot R2D2. It had to smile like a human, but look different.’’

After surfing the Internet for creators, Roshan winged his way to Australia for his alien. John Cox’s (1995 Oscar winner for Babe) huge workshop in the Gold Coast had crocodiles and Jaws-like whales, but his schedule was blocked for six months.

Unwilling to wait, Roshan moved on to Bimmini Special FX and Design Studios, headed by James Colmer and Lara Denman (George of the Jungle 2 and The Phantom). ‘‘As I narrated the script, I could see them reacting. They had tears in their eyes and instantly said that they would work on it,’’ Roshan remembers.

Roshan had a few ideas of what he wanted—a three-foot high alien with big, lovable eyes, one that looked as different as possible from ET. ‘‘I left at 4 pm and they faxed a sketch to my hotel almost instantly. It was very close to what I had visualised, only a bit old. But the process had started.’’

A process that went on for nearly 12 months. Colmer and Denman got back to Roshan for every detail, sending him sketches by e-mail. The material used for the alien’s body was very close to human skin, but the three had to zero in on a colour.

‘‘One day, James and Lara pointed out that Rohit worships Lord Krishna just before he leaves for school. So they suggested a Lord Krishna-blue. According to me, it was very novel. They also designed an Aum locket and embroidered the pig-skin material of his hooded costume with Aums,’’ describes Roshan. Jadoo also had a Glo friends quality—his head and wristband lit up from within. He could walk, talk, smile and zap magic during songs, leaving the dancing to the actors.

When Jadoo was finally ready for his first starring role, it was only half the battle won. Shot in Canada, Nainital and Mumbai, Roshan describes Koi…Mil Gaya as the most difficult among his eight films.

‘‘It required so much patience, even for the cameraman (Sameer Arya and Ravi K Chandran share the credits). Jadoo’s eyes had to match Hrithik’s eyes; he had to react to Hrithik. And because the space-craft scenes were shot in twilight, we could manage only 1-2 shots per day. It took a lot out of me; Jadoo used to come in my dreams.’’

Jadoo was expensive (Roshan budgets Koi…Mil Gaya at about Rs 30 crore), but it still came cheap because Roshan was emphatic he couldn’t afford a Hollywood budget. Still, Jadoo was so lifelike that at pack-up, Roshan’s six-year-old granddaughter Suranika took pictures with it. ‘‘She was behaving as if Jadoo was a boy,’’ laughs Hrithik, ‘‘Waving at it and waiting for reactions!’’

And though it may seem corny, Jadoo did get back into his spaceship and fly away to live in Bimmini’s Gold Coast workshop. Just like in the movies.

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