(Posted on sulekha.com in 2001 — http://creative.sulekha.com/lagaan-review_193242_blog )
You take soft drinks, snacks and sit in front of the T.V right when the coin is tossed in a one day international and the game sucks you in. Ball to ball. First to last. If the match gives you what you want – sixers, maiden overs, attack, defense, etc – Indias first passion leaves you in a state of high and makes your day.
The second Indian passion is politics and it brings sacred nostalgia if it is of the patriotism variety. The third passion is movies. This triumvirate can never be in short supply, each one is passion, addiction, religion.
Josip Novakovich says in a book : Steve Yarbrough uses what I describe “the deportation method”. When he finds a interesting character in California, he places her in a Mississippi setting. In the new environment, the Californian changes her life style – she can’t go out for capuccino, doesn’t get stuck in traffic, has enough time to read books – and becomes a new character. The original character serves as the starting point for the fictional one. And out of the clash of a character and the new environment, tensions and conflicts arise and plots naturally suggest themselves.
So writer-director Ashutosh Gowariker mixes all three passions, deports you to the days of the British Raj in Yarbrough style, thus forming a dizzying cocktail that sucks you in for more than three and a half hours. He does this without driving you to ennui at any point of time so much that you forgive minor irritants / flaws. Towards the end of the movie, the audience is rooting for the home team, clapping, cheering, whistling
Everybody in the impressive assemblage does well within the framework of the film – Bhanu Athaiya, Khulbushan Kharbanda, Javed Akhtar, A.R.Rahman, Suhasini Mulay, Gracy Singh, the Brits, the team etc. Over and above, this is Aamir Khan’s film, he has worked his heart out; you even suspect he might have ghost-directed parts of it.
The result is a personal success for Hindi filmdoms most disciplined actor. In the world of Bollywood glitterati, it is fashionable to say Aamir Khan as the favorite among the current generation of actors, so much that it almost became a politically correct thing to say so. Aamir now justifies his reputation in this film, the second in which he plays a cricketer, and all that chatterati can feel further vindicated.
Is this a milestone ? Not in terms of cinematic techniques. In the seemingly endless over-sentiment-oozing movies Bollywood seemed to get stuck in, this comes as a refreshing change. Like Reeta Sinha said in her review, Aamir is just getting started and if future flicks are as engrossing as this, it will be a milestone that saw the birth of a good production house in Aamir Khan Productions.