Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/18/04 13:56:58

"Hooray for Bollywood!"
5 stars (Awesome)

Clocking in at 224 minutes (although with an intermission), and with a plot concerning a cricket match over land taxes in a drought-ridden Indian village, Lagaan hardly sounds like the joyous crowd-pleasing experience it is... Think again.

Set in late 19th century India under British colonization, the price the Brits exact for keeping the peace in the villages is the "lagaan" (land taxes) assessed against the rajahs, which of course are passed on to the farmers.

When Captain Andrew Russell (Paul Blackthorne), overseeing the drought-plagued village of Champaner, doubles the land tax out of sheer meanness, he offers a bet to the villagers, and specifically to the young Bhuvan (Aamir Kahn), who is the only one to stand up to him: If the Champaners beat the Brits at a game of cricket, he will waive the lagaan for three years. If the Indians lose, the lagaan is tripled.

Russell's sister Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), attracted to Bhuvan and taking pity on the villagers, secretly teaches them to play the game with which they are totally unfamiliar.

Even more complications ensue when Bhuvan's childhood girlfriend Gauri (Gracy Singh), who is in love with him, becomes jealous over Elizabeth's attention to him, and another man, Lakha (Yashpal Sharma), who is in love with Gauri, joins the team in order to betray Bhuvan to Captain Russell!

It's all great good fun, with the oppressed Indian villagers (the "goodies") slowly coming together as a team and the British overlords ("the baddies") all but twirling their mustaches.

This singing, dancing, bursting-with-color romp will leave you with a huge grin on your face and a spring to your step, singing "Hooray for Bollywood"!

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