Monday, June 20, 2011

Lagaan Redux: 7 Basic Reasons to Love Lagaan as a Film

Well, as promised, here I am again with another post about Lagaan. I promise this post will be much simpler and easier to read than the last one, in part because it’s a more basic look about the things to like about Lagaan and in part because my brain is kind of fried at the moment!

Some of the many good reasons that Lagaan is a great film that’s easy to enjoy:

1.         Aamir Khan. Aamir is just an all-around likeable guy (which I'll probably end up talking about in my 3 Idiots post), and as Bhuvan that’s no different. He’s perfect for this role – fun, defiant, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Aamir makes the audience connect with Bhuvan. Lagaan was my first non-SRK Hindi film, which was a feat since Shahrukh's charm was a part of the reason I fell for Bollywood, as amazing as that sounds. When I read Anupama Chopra's biography of Shahrukh, "King of Bollywood," I discovered that Shahrukh was actually originally supposed to play Bhuvan in Lagaan. As much as I love that man (a lot), I'm glad he wasn't in this film. I doubt Shahrukh's flair could have adequately filled the role of defiant but down-to-earth Bhuvan. Aamir is the man for this film.

2.         The love story. In a story so thoroughly pervaded by serious themes (see the epic essay post that preceded this), the love story of this film is so light and fun. Aamir plays a wonderful coy lover to poor exasperated Gauri, who was also so well-played by Gracy Singh that I had trouble believing this was her first film. Oh, and Lagaan contains what I still maintain to be the most romantic line I have ever heard in my entire life: "There's only one house in the village with a neem tree in the yard. There's also a big field beside it. There's some chickens, two cows, and three goats. And I know whose house that is! It's mine, you silly girl! One thing before you go. Mother likes you, too!" Yes, that makes absolutely NO sense out of context and it’s probably weird regardless of context, but it is so sweet!

3.         Everyone else in the film. I feel like every single actor in this film was perfectly cast and had a perfect performance. From Paul Blackthorne (who I always love as a villain; see White Collar!) as villain Andrew Russell to Rajesh Vivek as crazy Guran, everyone in this film was a character who held his or her own.

4.         The music. The music of the film is effectively flawless while also being broad and deep. It remains one of my favorite all-around soundtracks (the complete soundtrack of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is perhaps the only thing that comes close to rivaling it). A particular favorite is Radha Kaise Na Jale.

5.         The film is fair to the white characters. I know this probably sounds horrible, like the white person who has no right to complain, but it’s hard for me to watch films that blindly “strike back” at whites as a whole without considering that not everyone took or takes an equal part in colonialism or racism. (Speaking of HumDil De Chuke Sanam, that’s one that shows my point: All Italians are outrageously, inhumanly bad; Namastey London is another.) In this film, Elizabeth and the two white cricket umpires are not evil whites. In fact, they side quite frequently with the Indians over their “own” Englishmen, all because of a sense of fairness. That's basic humanity, not racism.

6.         Cricket, of course. Sports movies always know how to keep the action moving – and Lagaan’s cricket match manages to do that for nearly two hours, which is amazing! And as I briefly said in my other post about this film, Lagaan really takes the time to mostly walk you through cricket, so you can understand it even if you didn’t before. I credit Lagaan (and in part, Dil Bole Hadippa) for getting me attached to cricket. Me, a random American who doesn’t even keep up with baseball, the American equivalent. Now that’s something.

7.         The time period. I’ve said twice before that I am an avid fan of the period piece in more than just Hindi film. But in particular, the time period of this film allows for dynamic settings and brilliant costuming. It also, of course, takes a dive into one of the fascinatingly transitional periods of Indian history.

Annnnnd we’re going to end it there because I think my brain is now completely dead. I know there was more I wanted to say and had planned to say, but all mental function has now stopped.

But needless to say over the past few days of mulling quite frequently over Lagaan, I’m about to be on the hunt for it in the DVD shops!