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Lagaan is another film from India; however, I am uncertain whether it qualifies for Bollywood status as it tends to be far more serious and subdued than many such.

The title is derived from the word Lagaan which means something like "tax", but something more like "tribute." The story is set during the British Raj and features a particularly despicable British Captain who is oppressing the people in one province (state?) in India.

One of the leaders of a farming village, Bhuvan, grows tired of the oppression and ultimately challenges the British to a cricket match. The Captain offers Bhuvan the following: If you win, no lagaan for three years; if you lose, rather than the double lagaan I was going to charge, you must pay triple lagaan.

Just prior to all of this the Captain had informed the village that since he had waived lagaan the previous year, he expected double lagaan this year. One gets the impression that he did this because the local ruler refused to eat meat at his table. Now the Captain knew that the local ruler's religion prohibited the eating of meat, but he nevertheless demanded it. While watching, I thought of the scene in 2 Maccabees with the seven sons of the Jewish Lady.

Any way, we now know that this particular British Captain is evil. What IS nice about the story is that not all of the British are so portrayed. The chief help the village receives as they begin to prepare for the game comes from the sister of the Captain who also, quite bravely, faces up to him several times in the course of the film.

The last hour or so of the film features a cricket match that stretches over three days. On the night before the last day the villagers meet together to pray for success in the game.

Despite the fact that to anyone other than the British and the members of their Commonwealth/erstwhile Empire, Cricket is utterly incomprehensible, the movie is wonderful from start to finish. Beautifully filmed, colorful, and meaningful. Songs occur throughout in English and Hindi. Interestingly, the film is subtitled and features the subtitles even when the characters are speaking English. I suppose it is easier than figuring out when to subtitle.

At any rate, this is one of the more serious films from India I have seen, and it is well produced, exciting, interesting, and gives a most fascinating perspective on the culture and people of India. Highly recommended to anyone interested in recent history and Indian film.

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Steven, Lagaan was one of the first Indian films I saw, and it's one of my favorites. The soundtrack alone is fantastic. You should also check out Swades, by the same director. It's even more serious than Lagaan (it addresses development and the caste system!) but it's also very funny.

We saw Lagaan two or three years ago and enjoyed it very much, especially the big dance numbers that just seemed to come out of nowhere. (Of course, Western musicals are like that as well, but I'm used to the style.)

I have to say that everything I know about cricket I learned either from Lagaan or Dorothy Sayers' Murder Must Advertise.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 3, 2006 10:09 AM.

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