If you’ve never seen a Bollywood movie, or have never believed that a three day cricket match could move you to tears, then you must see Lagaan.
Lagaan is the Academy Award nominated 2001 epic musical release directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. A four year labor of love, Lagaan exploded into American theaters, enthralling audiences with an epic, almost legendary tale of the struggle against oppression, the search for true love, and the glory of the athletic endeavor
The film is set in the late 1800’s in a small Indian village during the time of colonial British control. Aamir Khan plays the Krishna like hero, Bhuvan, who accidently finds himself committing his village to a cricket match with Captain Russell, the British commander of the region, (Paul Blackthorne) with three years worth of village taxes on the line.
The rural Indian village must now learn the mysterious game and defeat their oppressors athletically, or be faced with certain doom. In the creation of the eleven man team, the ensemble cast comes into fruition and weaves a stunning group performance. Characters like the dour, unkempt Shivite holy man, Guran, the quiet, respectful village Muslim, Ismail, and the turbaned, bearded Siek, Bagha, express the wide cultural diversity of India. The rest of the misfit team includes among others, squabbling farmers, a deaf drummer, a village healer, and a crippled untouchable, the acceptance of whom is a touching scene expressing the films ideal of true equality.
Punctuating the films dramatic performances and riveting plotline are choreographed musical numbers to rival any Broadway production. The songs are sung in Hindi, with the exception of English interjections in one piece by the character of Elizabeth Russell, the sister of the villainous Captain who falls in love with our hero Bhuvan and become the metaphor for the God Krishna’s true yet unattainable love Radha.
In a definitively Indian romantic twist, Bhuvan is courted by both Elizabeth and his true Indian love, the beautifully and mischievous Gauri, played by Gracy Singh. The talented actress and dancer dominates the musical numbers with her dynamic performance.
Underneath the period timeframe, the romantic comedy, and the perfectly choreographed song and dance scenes, we find Lagaan to be a sports movie. Don’t worry that you know nothing about cricket. By the end of the movie, and three days of one cricket match, you will not only understand wickets and bowling, but will be perched on the edge of your seat waiting for the game winning score.
Lagan is an epic movie in every way. Its charged themes and insightful writing are enough to move even the coldest heart. You will leave this movie feeling just a little more Indian, and you may find your shoulders moving rhythmically on their own. Don’t miss Lagaan.