LAGAAN, one of the fervently anticipated flicks
of the year, has ultimately released. And yes,
it does meet the sky-high expectations, although
it falls short of being a masterpiece.
Champaner. A small village in Central India.
Like thousands of villages across the country,
the farmers of Champaner depend on agriculture
as the main source of livelihood. Hard working
and fun loving, they have small dreams rain
for the crops and food for the families.
On the outskirts of the village stands a British
cantonment, commanded by Captain Russell (Paul
Blackthorne), an arrogant and capricious man.
Last year, there was rain, but very little. And
this year, two months of the monsoon season have
but there are no rains yet. All eyes
are skywards as the villagers wait tensely for
the life-giving drops from the heavens. They
know that if the monsoon Gods evade them this
year, their children will starve.
And then comes a bolt from the blue. The Raja's
(Kulbhushan Kharbanda) emissaries thunder
through the province announcing double tax 'dugna
A battle begins, which is fought without
bloodshed. It is fought by a group of unlikely
heroes led by Bhuvan (Aamir Khan). Helped by
Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), the beautiful
English girl, and Gauri (Gracy Singh), the young
and perky village girl.
Faith and courage come face to face with
arrogance and ruthlessness.
It requires grit and determination to attempt a
film of this magnitude. It requires guts to defy
the norms and parameters of commercial cinema
and devote the entire film to a cricket match.
It also requires valour and money in abundance
to recreate an era which none from the present
generation have witnessed (the film is set in
the year 1893).
The film exposes the games the Britishers played
with the Indians when they set foot on Indian
soil. To cite, two instances, when Captain
Russell forces the Raja, a vegetarian, to eat
meat or when Russell challenges Bhuvan for a
game of cricket, keep the viewer awestruck.
Even the post-challenge sequences that show
Aamir gradually making his team of eleven, have
been handled proficiently. But the highlight of
the film is, without doubt, the cricket match,
which dominates the second half completely.
The filming of the cricket match is the most
exhilarating part of the film, which keeps the
viewer on tenterhooks right till the end. The
highs and lows of the villagers and the emotions
attached to the game are so true to life, which
is why the cinegoer becomes a part of the crowd
watching the game on screen.
But the film has its share of flaws as well.
* One, those who expect the film to be a war
waged by Indians against the British will be
disappointed to see a film that is devoted
completely to a cricket match. This 'battle' is
fought with a bat in the hand, not swords or
* Two, the length of the film 3.40 hours
tries the patience of the viewer. The pace drops
at regular intervals in both the halves and
trimming the film is a must to make the
goings-on speedy. The song in the climax should
be deleted since it hinders the storytelling at
that stage of the film.
* Three, the language used by the villagers is
Avadhi, which will restrict its prospects to the
North belt (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar) mainly. Even
the usage of English by the Britishers will be
difficult to comprehend for the viewer based in
small towns and villages of India.
Despite the shortcomings, the film is
embellished with great cinematography (Anil
Mehta), authentic sets (Nitin Desai), brilliant
dialogues (K.P. Saxena), soulful music (A.R.
Rahman) and fantastic performances.
As a director, Ashutosh Gowariker has given the
film a grand look, captured intricate details
minutely and handled the theme beautifully, but
as one of the writers of the film, he could have
curbed the length of the film, for what could
have been conveyed in 3 hours has been stretched
Rahman's music is inspiring and gels well with
the mood of the film. At least three numbers
from the film 'Ghanan Ghanan', 'Radha Kaise Na
Jale' and 'Maine Pyar Tujhi Se Hain Kiya' have
a mesmerising effect on the viewer and the
placement of the songs is also perfect. Even the
background score has the unmistakable stamp of
the genius Rahman.
K.P. Saxena's dialogues elevate the sequences to
a great extent. At places, the impact is
clapworthy. Cinematography is awesome and can
easily be compared with the best of
Now to the performances! The film clearly
belongs to Aamir Khan, who enacts his part
marvellously. He gets ample scope to display
histrionics when the cricket match begins and
must say, the actor is in top form. This is
without doubt his best work to date.
New-find Gracy Singh springs a surprise. Not
only is she an amazing performer, but also a
first-rate dancer. Her dance in the 'Radha Kaise
Na Jale' is among the high points of the film.
Paul Blackthorne is efficient and manages to
make a strong impact. Rachel Shelley is equally
impressive. Amongst the character artistes,
Suhasini Mulay (Aamir's mother), Akhilendra
Mishra and Yashpal Sharma (who plays 'Lakha',
the sole negative character amongst villagers)
stand out with polished performances.
Amitabh Bachchan's commentary, interspersed
throughout the film, is one of the assets.
On the whole, LAGAAN is an apt example of good
cinema different plot, popular music,
breath-taking climax and excellent performances.
One of the keenly anticipated films of the
times, the film has taken a fabulous start
everywhere. But the Avadhi language spoken by
the villagers and the length of the enterprise
will restrict its prospects to an extent. But
despite the shortcomings, the film has terrific
curiosity value and initial value to recover its
investment and keep its investors happy.
Business in Mumbai, the U.P.-Bihar belt and
Overseas will be the best. At other places, the
film will be slightly affected due to the clash
with another biggie (GADAR).