Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India</strong> (2001)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Considering that Lagaan was for a long time the highest-profile Indian film to make it to North America (where it was nominated for a Foreign-language Academy award), it was high time that I took a look at it—and even better if it fit in the middle of an Aamir Khan mini-binge. For a very long 224-minute film, not a whole lot happens in Lagaan: A sports drama set against the oppression of the British Raj, this is a cricket movie in which the climactic match seems to play nearly in real time (and it takes place over three days). Still, it’s too easy to criticize Indian cinema’s tendency toward inflated duration: it’s much more acceptable to embrace the deliberate pace of the film. Shot in an immersive near-desert environment, it’s a film with strong cinematography that helps define its mood. Despite the inclusion of a few musical numbers, this is not a typical Indian masala, and much of the film is given to a meticulous description of the Raj’s oppressive taxation, various conflicts between the populace and their British oppressors, and an immensely detailed depiction of a cricket match meant to decide the fate of a small community. I swear that even cricket newcomers will learn most of the rules of the game by the time the film is over. The plot elements are incredibly familiar to a broad swath of viewers, ensuring its worldwide accessibility. It all builds to a triumphant conclusion, although—once again—the duration of the film may make its ending more meaningful. Lagaan regularly shows up on various lists of essential Indian movies, and for good reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *