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    Wicket good

    The nearly four-hour Bollywood extravaganza "Lagaan" tells how one town's spirit took on the British colonialists armed with nothing but wild dance numbers and cricket.


    The nearly-four-hour Bollywood extravaganza "Lagaan" tells how one town's spirit took on the British colonialists armed with nothing but wild dance numbers and cricket.

    Directed by: Ashutosh Gowariker.
    Written by: Kumar Dave, Sanjay Dayma, Ashutosh Gowariker, K.P. Saxena.
    Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracie Singh, Rachel Shelley, Paul Blackthorne, Rajesh Vivek..
    In Hindi and Bhojpuri with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    Film Forum
    209 West Houston St. (between 6th and 7th Ave.)
    (212) 727-8100

    In 1893 the British Empire was so evil that it sought out helpless Indian farmers and taxed them without mercy — especially when said farmers were feeling the effects of a drought. In fact, when not forcing vegetarians to eat meat or horsewhipping harmless villagers, they raise these taxes to incredible levels. Then, to top it all off, they tell the villagers that if they can beat them at cricket — cricket! — they'll eliminate the tax for three years, but if the villagers lose they'll have to pay triple the tax. The tax is called "lagaan," just like this movie! Subscribing to the theory that the power behind the British Empire was arrogant sneering, "Lagaan" is the little movie that could. Overbudget and overschedule, it sailed into Indian theaters with only one big star, a three hour and forty-five minute running time (most reviewers are saying "three hours plus" since they can't wrap their minds around 3:45), and the daunting fact that it's about cricket — cricket!

    One Academy Award nomination later, we all know that "Lagaan" is a great movie, and since the current cultural moment is bonkers for Bollywood, it's getting written up all over the wicked New York cityscape. Unfortunately, "Lagaan" is soft on story, just like Hollywood movies, but it's so long on running time that an accumulation of blippy details winds up making the two-dimensional characters feel well-rounded. They're like your family — none of them are very convincing or sympathetic, but you've been around them for so damn long you can't help but feel something for them.

    "Lagaan" delivers the Hollywood trip complete with cliches, but with more brio and for considerably less money. Plus, as people will no doubt never tire of telling you, there are musical numbers. And what music it is, by A.R. Rahman, the crown prince of Bollywood booty-shaking. The female lead, Gracie Singh, will confuse you and you won't understand why she's in the movie until you see her dance. Ginger Rogers was a pretty lousy actor too, but who cares, right? Paul Blackthorne is a revelation, playing the British baddie who hopes to sneer India into submission. He looks like a young Burt Reynolds, and his geometric sideburns give him an air of Teutonic decadence. The fact that he can snigger convincingly in both English and Hindi is actually really fascinating.

    So it's not a bad movie, it's well executed and somewhat predictable, but "Spiderman" is not exactly a brain teaser either and no one dances in that flick. But here's what everyone's really thinking: cricket! Feel your heart sink when the officials announce the start of the match with "This cricket match will last for three days." Apparently that's par for the course (which leaves long-winded Bollywood the only film industry capable of monopolizing cricket as a cinematic staple). You will walk out of the theater with a vague understanding of how this sport works (very slowly), because the climax of the movie is a one-hour cricket match. And, much against conventional wisdom, it works. I'd actually see this movie again if I could skip the by-the-numbers exposition and see this cricket match one more time, because it sure is something to see.

    "Lagaan" is successful and coming to America because it's very mainstream and middle-of-the-road, only with more brio and musical numbers and great length, and cricket. One wishes that Bollywood would explode into the Western consciousness with a classic like "Taal" or "Dil Se" or even the nuttiness of "Nayak." But it seems like it's "Lagaan" or nothing. Given that choice, I'll take "Lagaan" and like it.

    MAY 28, 2002

    Reader comments on Lagaan:

  • i did like it   from frenchgirl, Jun 30, 2002
  • Lagaan is magnificent   from mermaid, Jul 13, 2002
  • Lagaan was great.   from ArtFilm Freak, Aug 19, 2002
  • lagaan   from sherin, Sep 23, 2002
  • [no subject]   from Film Freak, Oct 20, 2002
  • [no subject]   from , Nov 6, 2002
  • SIMPLY AMAZING!!!   from Shane Donnelly, Dec 12, 2002
  • Great movie   from Chris, Jan 6, 2003
  • excellent movie!   from poonam, Mar 28, 2003
  • Lagaan is really great   from vamseekrishna.V, Jun 8, 2003
  • One of the Greatest   from Ahmad Rana, Jun 26, 2003
  • Buy It!   from Hildur, Jun 26, 2003
  • Re: Buy It!   from arminda, Mar 8, 2005
  • lagaan   from kiki, Jul 10, 2003
  • Lagaan is the best movie i've ever seen   from filipino student, Sep 17, 2003
  • TOTALLY COOL, WATCH IT BUY IT, OWN IT.   from BFZB, Sep 18, 2003
  • Re: Lagaan is a fire strenth film   from Joginder Kumar, Aug 1, 2005
  • SWEET!!!   from Spicefoo, Sep 19, 2003
  • it was really cool!   from theresian, Sep 19, 2003
  • Lagaan... the best movie I have seen   from Clarice, Sep 19, 2003
  • ThE bOmB!   from Nic8644, Nov 5, 2003
  • Lagaan   from Kat,Vivay,Gernetha,Honey,Stef, Dec 1, 2003
  • STUPENDUOUS MOVIE!!   from Retta =), Dec 8, 2003
  • [no subject]   from princess,amie,marlette,, Dec 11, 2003
  • nIce one   from student, Feb 11, 2004
  • [no subject]   from poozie, May 9, 2004
  • a latin american comment to it   from maricruz tasies, May 9, 2004
  • great!!   from kakai-bsn2a_addu, May 17, 2004
  • Re: great!!   from reema, Apr 5, 2005
  • writers of Laagan   from Gillie Evans, Jun 14, 2004
  • [no subject]   from josie, Jul 21, 2004
  • BeSt MoViE EvEr! from a Yr 9 chick   from Yr 9 Gal, Aug 17, 2004
  • Absolutely BRILL!! (LAGAAN)   from Kool_KayKay, Dec 13, 2004
  • BEAT THEM AT THEIR OWN GAME   from Amit Sarwal, Apr 5, 2005
  • Re: BEAT THEM AT THEIR OWN GAME   from reema, Apr 5, 2005
  • Lagaan   from Gauri, May 1, 2005
  • Lagaan   from Anariel, May 1, 2005
  • "Lagaan" is marvellous   from Fran from Sydney, May 8, 2005
  • [no subject]   from vlora, Sep 7, 2005
  • cute........great   from kath balbuena, Nov 18, 2005
  • I canęt stop enjoying it!   from maricruz tasies, Nov 25, 2005
  • Fantastic Film; Amazing.   from Jamie Edwards, Mar 18, 2006
  • Inspirational Movie   from Feroz, Jun 16, 2006
  • Lagaan   from Naveen Agnihotri, Jul 4, 2006
  • totally awesome!   from Evelyn, Apr 29, 2007
  • Fantastic !!!   from Raymundo Basurto F, Jun 19, 2007
  • [no subject]   from fazal, Nov 17, 2007
  • the best!!!   from karen ganancial, Nov 23, 2007
  • Lagaan   from Bruce, Jun 24, 2008
  • [no subject]   from kurangi, Sep 23, 2008
  • lagaan   from monalyn, Oct 1, 2008
  • [no subject]   from Mika Dulliyao, Sep 15, 2009
  • to enter comment on lagaan   from anurag nagarkar, Nov 5, 2010

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