Once upon a time in India...
Lagaan (also known as Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India) is a 2001 Bollywood epic musical sports drama film directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, written by Ashutosh Gowariker, Kumar Dave, and Sanjay Dayma, produced by Aamir Khan Productions, and distributed by SET Pictures. The film stars Aamir Khan and Gracy Singh. It was nominated for Best International Feature, but did not win.
"I have faith in you and your courage." - Gauri
In 1893, a small farming village in Champaner is forced to pay double tax to the oppressive British government. Unable to afford this due to an extensive drought, the village rallies behind the leadership of the courageous Bhuvan as they challenge the British to a fateful game of cricket that will determine their future.
My Favorite Part of Lagaan
I'm almost seventeen years old. I have seen a lot of movies. Lagaan is one-of-a-kind.
This is the first Bollywood film I have ever watched, and it's so unique in so many ways. It has the strangest combination of genres: it's a historical epic, a sports movie, a romance, a drama about a small village...and a musical. That's so weird. Yet it works entirely, and that's why I found this movie all sorts of amazing. It's a whopping 224 minutes long, but I was invested for all of the nearly four-hour runtime. It was such a different experience from any other movie I've ever seen, and I really, really loved that.
My Least Favorite Part of Lagaan
Now, this movie sometimes gets too ridiculous. It can be extremely melodramatic at times. I don't know if that's due to the fact that this movie is in Hindi and the English translation that crisp or that the dialogue is just really cheesy at times. I think it's likely the latter, because even the English-speaking parts of this movie are a bit ridiculous. There's a romance song where an English woman who has fallen in love belts out "Yes, I'm in love!" and throws a bird off of a balcony as though she was Snow White. This ridiculousness will be too much for people. The runtime will be too much for people. But it wasn't for me.
Why I Loved Lagaan
Never in my life did I think I would love an epic historical musical sports Bollywood film that is nearly four hours long, but here we are. This movie spends all 224 minutes building up to an epic finale that has great payoff and character moments. Actually, most of the characters are really good here. The British characters, not so much, but the villagers are all really great, layered people that all unite against a common enemy. This allows for you to invest in them and the story. Once again, I can't believe I'm saying this, but the music is fantastic. It's incredibly catchy. I watched this film in my AP World History class, and a few of my friends that are also in that class are hooked on the music. This movie is so weird, but it works so well.
Final Thoughts and Score
Lagaan is an absolutely phenomenal experience that is completely different from any movie that you will ever watch. If you can bear a really, really long runtime (if not, watch it in multiple parts. I watched it over a week) and some melodramatic ridiculousness, you will have a blast with this movie.
I will go Sweet here. Age range is 11+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
"Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India"
Fun Factor: 9/10
Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker
Rated PG for minor violence, language, thematic elements
Released on June 15, 2001
3 hours and 43 minutes
Aamir Khan as Bhuvan Latha
Gracy Singh as Gauri
Rachel Shelley as Elizabeth Russell
Paul Blackthorne as Captain Andrew Russell
Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Raja Puran Singh Chawla
Yashpal Sharma as Lakha
Daya Shankar Padey as Goli
Raj Zutshi as Ismail
Raghubir Yadav as Bhura
Pradeep Rawat as Deva Singh Sodhi
Akhilendra Mishra as Arjan Shrivallahb Vyas as Uncle Isar
Amin Hajee as Bagha
Aditya Lakhia as Kachra
Javed Khan as Ram Singh
Amin Gazi as Tipu
Suhasini Mulay as Yashoda Maa
Rajendra Gupta as Mukhiya Ji
John Rowe as Colonel Boyer
David Grant as Major Warren
Thor Halland as Captain Roberts
Jeremy Child as Major Cotton
Chris England as Lieutenant Yardley
Ben Nealon as Lieutenant Smith