Friday, March 14, 2008

Lagaan


I had a really tough time getting my hands on this film! After months of searching online, the only place I found it was on Nehaflix, but it was horribly overpriced. The owner of my local Indian grocery store told me the publisher recently went out of business, resulting in Lagaan becoming scare and quite expensive.

Then, one day, lo and behold, my friend takes me to some random and tiny (but very cool) video shop on Milwaukee's East side...and they actually have it!! I couldn't contain my excitement. I almost broke into a song and dance right in the video store, but since my friend (who I haven't converted into a Bollywood fan yet) visits this store quite frequently, I maintained my composure and paid for an overnight rental instead.

Was Lagaan worth all the hype and drama I'd created around it? Probably, but I didn't actually love it. But that's okay. It's okay because there were still some great things in the film, and I only paid $3 to rent it(as opposed to $130 to purchase it online).

I guess I'm just not a "sports movie" kind of gal, but that's not to say I was disappointed with the lengthy cricket game in the second half. In fact, I probably enjoyed that part of the film more than I did the first half. It was in those scenes where I finally "connected" with Lagaan, when I found myself falling for the characters, moved by the film's beautiful story of teamwork, really wanting them to come to victory. Ok, so if this is what makes a great sports film (and I would think that it does), then Lagaan definitely makes the mark.

While it succeeded most in telling a story of friendship and unity amongst villagers, I found the romance in the film a bit dull, a disappointment since the three characters on the cover had me thinking we were going to get a juicy love triangle. Although it's possible the film was trying to do just that while everything else was going on, it just didn't quite work for me in that respect. I did appreciate the writer throwing some romance in...it just didn't move me all that much (I loved Gracy Singh, though. She was the cutest!).

Aamir Khan continues to impress me with his performances...this is only the third film I've seen him in, and I'm already in awe of the man. He says so much with his expressions alone, never over the top. The only problem with his role in Lagaan was that I didn't get much about who his character really was, but I guess that was because the writer was trying to tell the story of an entire village coming together, not just Bhuvan's piece in it. So whatever. I just want more Aamir!!

As I mentioned above, the movie's true strength lies in its touching tale of teamwork. Even as things turn sour when one of the villagers betrays his fellow teammates, Lagaan chooses forgiveness instead of spite, giving us another character to root for in the end instead of a villain.

It's those little things that made Lagaan special for me. I'm definitely glad I got to see it, as it's quite different from the typical Bollywood formula, and my curiosity was killing me. Knowing the lengths I go to for Bollywood, I might have paid the $130 had I not found it at the video store (and this post wouldn't have sounded quite so cheery)! Now there's a scary thought...

Text © Copyright 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood

22 comments:

Magpie Ima March 19, 2008 at 6:47 PM  

This was my introduction to Bollywood and I love my friend's description: the best four hour Indian cricket movie you'll ever see! We have an annual Lagaan party in my family. Midsummer, when it's really hot, we make a bunch of Indian food and retire to the basement to watch Lagaan. I had no idea it was so expensive.

Your blog is a real treat in my day!

Daddy's Girl March 20, 2008 at 4:34 AM  

$130??!! I'm in shock! My copy of the DVD (which I bought for just 5 pounds - a bargain) was stolen a while ago and I've always wanted to get a replacement... but now I'm not so sure... I think I shall just keep replaying it in my memory - LOL!

I agree with your assessment of the movie, it was really nicely done and Aamir of course was excellent, my favourite thing about the film is the level of attention that went into the characterization of even the 'minor' characters.

Anonymous,  March 20, 2008 at 5:15 AM  

I just checked on Amazon.com. They're offering brand-new copies of Lagaan for $15.99 and used starting at $3.99. Just in case you feel the need to own it--and who wouldn't with Aamir running around topless?

I enjoy your blog!

Filmi Geek March 20, 2008 at 5:32 AM  

Was going to offer the same comment as Anonymous, above. I'm not sure what's up with Nehaflix's price - the collector's edition has altered the market a bit but even the collector's edition goes for "only" $60.

Anyway glad you got a hold of it; you might look into rental services like iTalkies and Netflix as well.

On to the movie - sports movie? romance? Sure, I suppose *Lagaan* had these elements, but to discuss it in these terms rings hollow to me, and doesn't capture what's wonderful about it. *Lagaan* is much more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it's the earnest arrogance of its hero, which is for a pleasant change directed toward a seduction other than that of the heroine (i.e., that of the villagers, and by extension all of India, to the game of cricket); or maybe the lovingly detailed characterization with which each villager is distinguished from every other.

That last, which is one of my favorite things about the film, doesn't emerge as sharply on first viewing as on repeat viewings, but that presumes a desire for a repeat viewing, which you may not have.

Whatever it may be, I can say this: *Lagaan* is the only film I've seen in which the fact that the climactic battle scene had a foregone conclusion did not reduce me to squirming in boredom and "get-on-with-it!"-ness. And that's all the more astonishing where the climactic scene is a sports match sopping up 80-minutes of screen time. I knew the villagers were going to win the match - of course they are going to win - and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Actually I am, every time - have seen it maybe 5 times all the way through now.

*Lagaan* is, to me, on the asymptotic approach to a perfect movie - I'm aware of its flaws but they so wither in comparison to its pleasures and joys that it remains not merely a favorite, but one of my five favorite Hindi films, and the only film on that list made later than the 1970s. I guess it doesn't have to be that for everyone. I'll try to be open-minded about that and combat my profound confusion by writing paeans to it like this one.

Nida March 20, 2008 at 1:14 PM  

It's so cool to read everyone else's responses to this film!

Magpie Ima--That sounds really fun! I think Lagaan would be the kind of movie that would grow on me more over time. Watching it as a summer tradition with family would be really awesome! Thank you for the lovely compliment--its such a great feeling to know you're enjoying the blog!

Daddy's Girl- Believe me, I was in shock as well! But as Anonymous points out, we could always get a used copy off of Amazon...or just rent...or use your mental reply idea!:) Filmigeek made a comment as well about the individual characterization...I think I must have noticed it somewhat, but didn't duly appreciate it until it was pointed out!

Anonymous--"Aamir running around topless"...ha ha, did I actually forget to mention that? ;) Maybe I do need to own my own copy, after all!

Filmigeek--"Perhaps it's the earnest arrogance of its hero, which is for a pleasant change directed toward a seduction other than that of the heroine (i.e., that of the villagers, and by extension all of India, to the game of cricket); or maybe the lovingly detailed characterization with which each villager is distinguished from every other." Wow. I totally missed that! But, now that you've explained it in that light, I can see why I started to appreciate the film halfway through, even though it wasn't quite what I expected. You see, once the cricket game started, and the villagers really started to come together, I started feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside. I didn't really quite know why, but I'm willing to bet it was due to the characterization you and Daddy's Girl mentioned. I don't think I gave that adequate praise, both in my review and in my own mind! Do I have a desire for another view? Sure, if I stumble upon it again (I'm sure someday the price will go down!:) )and perhaps some of the other things about the film you have brought up would become more obvious, as you have stated.

I should probably there is a small detail to my Lagaan viewing that I omitted from my blog, but in hindsight after reading the comments, I now feel may have been relevant. During most of the last half of the film, particularly during the final third of the cricket game, my rented DVD kept skipping. Actually, it would freeze for a full 5-10 seconds and then keep playing, but happened at more and more frequent intervals. It got to a point of annoyance and irritation, where we actually wanted the film to hurry up and end so we could just see what would happen and be done with it. At the time I thought I got the jist of the game, but now I'm beginning to think part of the effect (that you mention, Filmigeek) may have been lost. Hmm...Someday I'll have to get my own copy and try this one again!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat March 23, 2008 at 10:40 AM  

I agree that for all its predictobility, Lagaan is eminnetly watchable. That said, that English song in the middle of the movie is so over the top silly that it slays me completely- not to mention the fact that the "foreign" girl goes home with her heart broken- some things never change, no matter when the movie is made!

bollywoodfoodclub March 23, 2008 at 2:54 PM  

Nida, I've been able to get lots of my Bollywood movies at the local libraries in the Twin Cities, which is were I found Lagaan. I bet the Milwaukee library system has some.

All the best,
Sita-ji

bollywoodfoodclub March 23, 2008 at 3:03 PM  

Sorry couldn't resist:

http://countycat.mcfls.org/search?/dindia/dindia/1%2C492%2C1056%2CB/exact&FF=dindia+foreign+films&1%2C66%2C

Sita-ji

bollywoodhub,  March 25, 2008 at 4:08 PM  

hi nida
I liked your blog pretty informative on bolly stuff... i also write for a blog .. www.bollywood-hub.com if you wannna exchange links
happy easter

Nida March 26, 2008 at 5:50 PM  

Shweta-
How could I forget to mention that song! I agree...this was probably one of the few parts of the film that I found cheesy. The rest of Lagaan seemed pretty "toned down", by Bollywood standards.

Sita-ji--Thank for the tip!:) I think Beth mentioned this to me once as well, and I always forget completely to check my libraries out!! Will definately give it a try next time!

Bollywood Hub-Happy Easter to you, too! Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Exchanging links sounds like a grand idea--I've added you to my blogroll at right!

yves March 27, 2008 at 2:41 PM  

Hi Nida,

If you can't find a film, I'm always willing to share mine! Had I known, I would have sent it to you...
Glad you enjoyed it, it's a nice film!
cheers
yves

Nida March 27, 2008 at 2:52 PM  

Yves,

That's very generous of you! I'll keep that in mind next time, thank you!:)

Thanks for the link, by the way... I've added your blog link to my list as well!

theBollywoodFan July 28, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

Hi Nida: That's an interesting take on the film, and I'm glad you note teamwork and forgiveness in your review!

Lagaan has gotten better and better for me the more I've seen it (haven't counted the number of times I've seen it, but it surely exceeds 20, which I now realize is over three days of my life -- arguably not very productive :).

I wrote a series of posts on Lagaan recently (including a review), and invite you to check it out here:

http://thebollywoodfan.blogspot.com/2008/06/celebrating-7th-anniversary-of-lagaan.html


The limited edition collector's DVD set cost $120 from LagaanDVD.com, about 40% of which was for shipping (available only via UPS from India, when I ordered). As you can tell from my commentary, though, it was well worth every penny, given that it is my favorite film of all time. :)

Been enjoying your movie reviews (all insightful, thanks for sharing your thoughts), and shall be adding you to my blog roll soon! Cheers!

Nida July 29, 2008 at 9:26 PM  

Bollywood Fan,

You really do love this film (Just checked out your blog--very cool! And I'll be adding you to my own blogroll:) )!

I'm sure, judging by the responses and the amount of love a lot of people have for this film, that it's one of those movies that get better and better the more times you watch it. And that's what a true gem of a film is all about, if you ask me! As a matter of fact, the first time I saw Kuch Kuch Hota Hai I thought it was pretty good, but not great. After watching several more times it is now one of my all time favorite films.

I'll have to purchase my own copy of Lagaan. I'd also be willing to bet I'd like it better knowing what to expect and watching a DVD that didn't skip every two seconds (as this rented copy did).

I'm glad you like the reviews and thank you for stopping by! I'll be making my through your archives as well!

LyricalGenius August 1, 2008 at 2:05 PM  

Hi Nida: I agree about seeing films after the first time, in which case we can pay closer attention to the details, and be less worried about the outcomes (I have a tendency to get caught up in the plot...like when reading a book).

Might well be a good idea to see Lagaan again! The background score (if I may treat 'it' as a being) is the unsung hero of the film, and that can only truly be enjoyed without interruptions. That and the integration of the dialogue with the cinematogrpahy, and the level of detail involved, for which Ashutosh Gowariker shares as much praise as Aamir Khan.

Mr. Gowariker went on to make my favorite SRK movie Swades (2004) and Jodhaa Akbar this year.

Oh, and thanks for the link!

Nida August 1, 2008 at 2:12 PM  

Lyrical Genius,

Excellent points! I have to rewatch this with a good DVD, because mine kept skipping and, like you said, interfered with my whole cinematic experience.

Very true that when you watch a film--especially one where my expectations were miles high like Lagaan--its easy to get caught up in the outcome rather than to sit back and enjoy. This happened to me again with Rang de Basanti, but I was able to catch myself--I'll be posting on that one soon!

Also want to watch this one alone because I find that when I am watching a film with my mom and brother for the first time I am sometimes a bit swayed by their reactions--its really hard to avoid this.

Haven't seen Swades yet--but will have to--I loved Jodhaa-Akbar!

theBollywoodFan August 1, 2008 at 2:12 PM  

PS: That was me, by the way, in the previous comment...Ah, the perils of using multiple accounts :)

And just to add some value to this comment: have you seen Swades?

theBollywoodFan August 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

Really looking forward to your review of Rang De Basanti! And although Swades was not well liked by many SRK fans (at least the ones I know), it was my first 'I get it' SRK moment. I thought he was excellent and convincing as an actor.

It's inevitable to be affected by reactions of others while watching...and I could use some of your self-awareness skills! :)

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Bollywood Glamour July 27, 2009 at 7:14 AM  

The biggest cliche followed in Lagaan was 'victory for the underdog'. We al know its not possible to learn cricket is such short time, not possible for them to be good at it, and then even beat the ones who have been playing God knows how long.. But every minute and second of the movie we are aware thats going to happen. And it does..after the expected twists and turns in the end ofcourse!
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