Lagaan - Once Upon a Time in India
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Queen Victoria's India. The year is 1893. Champaner... a small farming village in Central India. Onthe outskirts of the village stands a British cantonment, commanded by Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne)- an arrogant and capricious man who wields the power of life and death over the villages under his jurisdiction. LAGAAN - a story of a battle without bloodshed. Fought by a group of unlikely heroes led by Bhuvan (Aamir Khan), an enigmatic young farmer with courage born of conviction - and a dream in his heart. Helped by Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), an English rose who came to India and lost her heart, and Bhuvan's pillar of strength, Gauri (Gracy Singh), the young and perky village girl who dreams only of a home with the man she loves. A story of extraordinary circumstances thrust upon ordinary people.
Would you believe the most enchanting musical of the year is an almost four-hour-long epic about a ragtag group of 19th-century Indian farmers who form a cricket team to take on an arrogant British captain? The old-fashioned Hollywood musical is alive and well in India's Bollywood industry, where the joyful explosion of music and dance and innocent romance abounds in sweeping epics. In this infectious tale of bloodless revolution, the underdog outcasts and oddballs of a fractured village pull together into a unified team to take on the oppressive colonial Brits at their own game. Think The Longest Yard meets The Seven Samurai by way of Rudyard Kipling, with cricket bats, choreographed dance numbers, romantic triangles, and a rousing call to solidarity. There are no surprises, but what spirit, what color, what good fun! --Sean Axmaker
- Deleted scenes
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The following may contain spoilers:
This is one of my top ten movies. An investment of time, and worth it.
I wrote a critical analysis of it for a graduate school seminar, a post-colonial literature class. Aamir Khan's reputation for a flawless work ethic soars -- every detail works, and the end result is magical.
"Lagaan" must be experienced: the symbolism, the details, the storyline are an homage to Gandhi, ahimsa, and the triumph of good over evil. Khan's political and social concerns are laid bare, his anti-Imperialism unvarnished.
But it's more than politics, thinly veiled. It's about the power of non-violence to triumph. It's a love story. It's a spiritual manifesto, of sorts. It's about the power of compassion and goodness over cruelty and greed. It's a story of idealism and fearlessness, the quintessential underdog movie; and I would argue it is the best underdog movie ever produced, for it incorporates the elements of India's caste system, British Imperialism, and grants the most unseemly -- a lame untouchable -- humanity.
This isn't about a single underdog, but a motley crew finding something larger, with Khan's character referencing the power of Gandhi's non-violent philosophy, and India's basis for independence.
For this reason the lame hand delivers victory over the iron fist: this is the movie's central symbolism, brilliantly developed throughout, in various ways.
Cannot recommend enough: Khan should have received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
I first saw this film during movie night Friday at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (The Texas Medical Center). By the end, I was telling the sponsors of the film that it was one of the most enjoyable films I'd ever seen, in spite of its length.
This is a Great Movie, with a totally different perspective of what it was like for Indians living under the British Raj. British and Indian actors, surprisingly good performances all-around, some recognizable Western names and faces in the cast, and both drama and humor along with a little history. It makes for a nice balance and some painless education with your entertainment.
This movie is VERY long; about 4 hours. Most of it is subtitled, but there is also spoken English mixed in. It provides a "You Are There" verisimilitude. In spite of the length, I found the movie engaging enough that the time almost flew by; at least as fast as 4 hours can fly.
This is a Bollywood film, and there is lots of singing and dancing for those who like that sort of thing. For your first time viewing, I suggest you NOT fast-forward through it. You might be surprised and find some of it enjoyable. On a second viewing, if you wish, you can shorten the movie somewhat by using the FF button through the musical interludes.
I have adored this movie for years and was so happy to find it on Amazon finally. I was so disappointed when I discovered it would not play on my DVD player nor my laptop. Somehow the format is so screwed up it would not work no matter what I tried.
The year is 1893. The British Empire controls a wide expanse of India, it's said thru the use of judicious protection racketeering. This is a time when the Englishmen have no qualms in calling the natives "darkies" or "slaves" and ruling them with an iron fist. The desert farming village of Champaner, which lies under the uneasy "guardianship" of Captain Russell's cantonment, has been suffering thru an interminable drought, as "parched eyes scan the sky" in hopes of rain. Despair sinks even deeper for the villagers when Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne) callously states that, despite the ongoing drought, double lagaan (tax paid out with a portion of the farmer's harvest) would now be required.
But a run-in with the fiery and idealistic villager Bhuvan (Aamir Khan), who makes a dismissive comment about the sport of cricket, influences Russell to capriciously offer a wager: the villagers vs. the British soldiers in a cricket match, with the tax being tripled for the entire province should the Brits win against three years of tax exemption for the province should the villagers prove victorious. Against the counsel of his fellow villagers, Bhuvan takes on the bet. However, contrary to Bhuvan's assertion that cricket was similar to the Indian game of "Gilli-Danda," this British pastime is altogether something new. Now, the men of Champaner have three months to not only prepare for the game of their lives, but to also learn the rules of the sport.
Thanks to Aishwarya Rai, I've been watching Indian cinema for over a year now, and I can say, with good conviction, that LAGAAN is Indian cinema at its finest and most vibrant. Writer/Director Ashutosh Gowariker expertly helms this film and, by weaving an epic storyline with sweeping cinematography and honest acting performances, ends up with a gripping and exciting but still very human drama. Certainly, it's more polished and technically sound than most Bollywood ventures. The protagonists are likable and immensely sympathetic. Actor and producer Aamir Khan comprehends the value of a charismatic leading man and, as the indomitable Bhuvan, he towers over the other characters. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Paul Blackthorne's Captain Russell, the egotistical scoundrel of the film, can only be described by dusting off an old fashioned term, which is "dastardly." In his villainous, one-note tendencies, Russell might as well have twirled his mustache. He's a fun guy to root against. Meanwhile, top supporting actor honors go to the intense-eyed Rajesh Vivek and Yashpal Sharma as, respectively, the brash and half-loony fortune teller Guran (who growls out my favorite insult: "You tea drinkers! Fleabags! Bootwearers!") and the traitorous Lakha.
There's a love story, of course. There's even a love triangle. Newcomer Gracy Singhy is winsome as the plucky and passionate Gauri, who's ever supportive of her Bhuvan. And, as a dancer, she is sublime. Rachel Shelley, with a more reserved part to play in the quietly spirited Elizabeth Russell, imbues her character with a wistful and gentle charm. Both girls are so engaging, it's sad that, for one of them, the ending is bound to be less than happy.
LAGAAN incorporates the best and most exuberant qualities of Bollywood while conforming enough to the western cinematic sensibilities that it becomes accessible for everyone. The songs are heartfelt and well integrated and the dance numbers are lavish and colorful spectacles. Two of the most evocative moments in the film come in the form of songs, as when the villagers prematurely celebrate the onset of rain and, much later, when the villagers, with utter hopelessness sinking in, fervently pray into the night for salvation.
Incidentally, this film had the unlikely result of making me genuinely curious about the sport of cricket (I actually looked up "wicket"). The last third of the movie is entirely devoted to the game itself, as the men of Champaner find themselves contending against overwhelming odds. Now, this was an hour and 20 minutes of cricket, which might be the precursor to baseball but still has its own unfamiliar set of rules. Nevertheless, I was able to follow well enough and became so caught up in the doings that, ultimately, the length of time became immaterial. As one British cricket connoisseur mentions, "Things are certainly beginning to hot up a bit, aren't they?"
Finally, here's how I'll end. This is the movie. An epic tale. An exotic culture. The human condition. Social and racial issues. A defiant stand against oppression. A romance or two. A humorous insult or three. An extended game of cricket. Singing. And dancing. And more singing and dancing. Pure joy. LAGAAN.