/ produced by Aamir Khan / directed by Ashutosh Gowariker /
starring Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, & Rachel Shelley / music
by A.R. Rahman / lyrics by Javed Akhtar
Lagaan. The first Bollywood movie to crack the racks
at Blockbuster (the US-based movie-rental chain). The third
Indian movie ever to be nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar.
The movie that, at least briefly and in some circles, earned
its producer and star the nickname God.
didnt win the Oscar. But why not? It had a story the Academy
loves to love. A four-hour period piece about a cricket
game, of all things that had scrapped its way out of
the cheesy hurly-burly of Bollywood. A star/producer with Napoleonic
ambitions who played the Oscar game and won, hosting screenings
for Academy members in a West Hollywood hotel room until the
buzz built. And, finally, Oscar-esque themes of oppression and
redemption, with a handsome man leading the charge.
right, there are deeper themes at work in Lagaan
than a cricket match, which help save the movie from being what
what one cranky American reviewer called an Indian version of
the baseball film Major League.
story: A small town in India suffers not only from a drought
but the whims of British control. The town is asked to pay double
tax, and when a young man of the town protests he is given a
challenge if his town can win a cricket match against
the British, there will be no tax to pay. But if the town loses,
it will have to pay triple the tax. The man, Aamir Khan at his
most muted, accepts without even knowing how cricket is played.
The classic Bollywood love triangle comes with the soft-hearted,
parasol-toting sister of the mean British leader. Attracted
to Khan, she rapidly picks up Hindi and begins to teach a rag-tag
bunch of town men the game. Meanwhile, Khans town sweetheart
is jealous. But Khan is a decent (and athletic) man. Here is
an ending that can be seen from even the farthest seats in the
this should not stop you from watching Lagaan, which
is still one of the best films Bollywood has made. That is thanks
to Khan, who must be the industrys most finicky and yet
rule-bending member. The gossip magazines yawn and call him
an analyzing bore. Maybe he is. But for Lagaan,
he made the actors promise to shoot no other films while Lagaan
was being made, an unusual move when most run between several
sets. And Lagaan was shot in sync sound no
later dubbing of the actors voices. Wonky details, perhaps,
but it means that the movie comes out relatively seamless and
professional. Not a bad standard to set in Bollywood.
its easy plot, Lagaan looks good and sounds good,
with wonderful, understated music that makes great background
music for reading or studying another rare thing in Bollywood.
The only real boink moment is a song that shows
the British girl twirling in her bedroom and singing I
am in love in English, an uncomfortably Disney-like scene
where you expect glittering sparrows to wrap her in a sari.
Squirm in your seat a bit, and then its over.
matter what Khan may say, Lagaan was a Dear
Oscar nominating committee movie from the start. The colors,
the music, the melodrama, everything that is Bollywood has been
toned down just enough to not scare off the first-time viewer.
This reviewer suspects that Khan even thinned his rug-like chest
hair to appeal to Western eyes. All of these efforts clearly
worked to make a good film but as the Oscars and a little
part of my heart marked Passion go, they didnt
work quite well enough.
reviewed by Kaya