Lagaan: Not quite taxing :-)

by vpundir | July 21st, 2001

Okay, so I finally went to watch Lagaan. And regretted it even before I got into the theater. No, not because the movie sucks, but because I discovered that it was becoming tax-free from the next morning.

About the movie – till the interval, it’s exceptionally good – with only minor irritants like the inconsistent dialect (seems that everybody is converting their shudh Hindi dialogs to the accent and dialect he or she likes the most at that particular moment) and the squeaky clean clothes (a pretty rich village – everyone’s wearing new clothes. If Levi’s can sell new jeans with the lived-in look, the filmmaker could surely have arranged for clothes with a “worn-out” feel)

Actually, it remains bearable for a short while even after the intermission – that is till the match starts. After that it deteriorates into a cheap parody of a cricket match. Even so, the match is so firmly entrenched and so intriguingly interwoven into the plot that the film manages to sail through. (One thing I found surprising was the interest with which most of the audience was watching the pre-fixed match)

I know that the newspapers have been telling you that a lot of painstaking research had been done for the film. They’ve been telling you anecdotes about how Amir Khan got to lay his hands on a cricket bat of 1890s vintage, and so on. They have been lying, apparently under the influence of, well, a PR campaign.

Not Quite Cricket

1. In 1890s, bats used to be slightly crooked, unlike the ones shown in the film.
2. The 3 day, 1 inning test is a modern invention. In those days, they only had the 2 inning version.
3. In those days, an over meant 8 balls.
4. In that day and age, “tackling the ball twice” was considered out. But Gurran, one of Amir’s team-members bounces the ball off his bat, and then knocks it to the boundary without jeopardizing his position in the field.
5. What happens in a test match if the team batting second is not able to equal/exceed those made by the first team? The match is declared drawn – except if the whole team manages to get out by the end of the match. But Lagaan turns rules on their head. Here, though it is a 3 day, single inning test match, the winning rules are pretty much the same as ODIs. Some intelligent filmmaker this!

One fallacy in the winning captain’s game plan – When the rival captain has kicked the ball across the boundary in order to prevent Amir from maintaining the strike (4th last over), Amir again gives him a chance to do the same in the penultimate over, though the loser doesn’t repeat his intelligent move.

Obviously, both Bhuvan and Gauri (and sundry other bachelors) look well past the normal marriageable age, for an Indian village (esp. in 1890s).

Also, quite odd how quickly Elizabeth learns Hindi, isn’t it? Even odder is the ease with which Hindi versions of cricketing terms come to Ram Singh. Two linguistically very talented people, I must say.

Finally, the biggest flaw – monsoon is never a 4 month extravaganza in India, at least not in Bihar. But Ashutosh Gowarikar can defy Mother Nature. It’s 1 month past the normal date for arrival of monsoon when Amir Khan takes up the challenge. And the first monsoon showers start the day he wins the match – i.e. 3 months after the day of the bet.

In the final analysis, I wonder why this film is being praised so much by the “classes” (who “hate” Govinda-David Dhawan flicks because they are expected to leave their brains at their homes). It could have been that, just like me, they noticed the flaws, and liked the film in spite of all that. But the point is, that every damned person id touting it as a perfect movie. So its much more likely that its the fabulously handled PR, with every newspaper and magazine singing paeans in praise of Lagaan, that has not permitted our gentry to think otherwise. That’s the power of fourth estate for you.

Despite all this criticism, the fact is, I sort of liked the movie. Come to think of it, had it been a normal Hindi flick, perhaps I wouldn’t even have noticed these flaws. But the film is otherwise so brilliant that the rough patches are glaringly apparent.

The last word: Lagaan is not a great film. But it’s definitely a good one. And a must see, too.

Shall I spoil the fun by saying “Just like Gadar”?

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