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Gowariker claimed that people were bound to compare Swades to the Oscar-nominated film, Lagaan.

"There has been speculation galore -- about the movie, the cast, my ability to come up trumps once again... Comparisons [between Lagaan and Swades] are inevitable, but unfair. Swades is set in the rural areas and the similarity ends there," he says.

The film has been largely shot at Wai village in Maharashtra. Certain portions have been canned at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida.

"Swades is a simple film," says Gowariker, seen here with wife Sunita. "It's not something that you haven't seen before. What will be different is my take on it. It's a contemporary film set in rural India. It deals with issues like patriotism, social issues, realising one's responsibilities."

"Mohan Bhargav [Shah Rukh Khan] plays the protagonist who realises it's high time we stop dreaming about greener pastures abroad and giving a blind eye to our responsibilities at home. Geeta [newcomer Gayatri Joshi] plays a school teacher in a village."

Joshi, meanwhile, also did not attend the music launch.

Ashutosh smiles, "I have concealed Gayatri and will bring her out only at the premiere. I want the curiosity about [her character] Geeta to grow. I don't want her interviews and quotes splashed all over, before the release."

The director admitted that it took him a while to select his leading lady. "I auditioned several girls. I didn't want a big name. I wanted a newcomer who could look like a teacher in a village. There had to be a lot of simplicity and sincerity in her eyes."

Gayatri, who was voted My Miss India by Sony television viewers as part of the Miss India beauty contest several years ago, had appeared in a Santro commercial as a bride wanting to be taken for a car ride with Shah Rukh Khan. This ad-film had apparently served as a screen test of sorts for Gowariker to judge the celluloid chemistry between Khan and Joshi.

Ashutosh Gowariker with wife, Sunita.

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