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Lagaan: Once upon a Time in India (Widescreen)

Aamir Khan , Gracy Singh , Ashutosh Gowariker    DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Would you believe the most enchanting musical of the year is an almost four-hour-long epic about a ragtag group of 19th-century Indian farmers who form a cricket team to take on an arrogant British captain? The old-fashioned Hollywood musical is alive and well in India's Bollywood industry, where the joyful explosion of music and dance and innocent romance abounds in sweeping epics. In this infectious tale of bloodless revolution, the underdog outcasts and oddballs of a fractured village pull together into a unified team to take on the oppressive colonial Brits at their own game. Think The Longest Yard meets The Seven Samurai by way of Rudyard Kipling, with cricket bats, choreographed dance numbers, romantic triangles, and a rousing call to solidarity. There are no surprises, but what spirit, what color, what good fun! --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
I am still in the toe dipping stage when it comes to seeing Bollywood musicals. I would say that my first one was "Bride and Prejudice" except that it was made in England and not India, so the correct answer would be "Dil Se..," which I checked out because I was hooked on the song Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya," which Spike Lee used at the start of "Inside Man." I picked "Lagaan" as my next Bollyhood film because it appeared to be the highest rated one I could find, and had the reputation of being the most expensive and successful Bollywood film ever made when it came out. After having spent an entire afternoon watching it I can certainly understand why it has such a lofty reputation.

The full title of the film is "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India," which I did not know at the time I watched it. That revelation is intriguing because it fosters an implicit comparison between this 2001 film from director Ashutosh Gowariker and the Sergio Leone movies "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "Once Upon a Time in America" (but not the Robert Rodriguez film "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"). The setting is a small village in the north of India in 1893, when the country is under the rule of Queen Victoria's British Empire. The land has been suffering from drought for over a year and the villagers and their Raja wants to be exempted from the crippling tax ("lagaan") that they owe the British government. The snobbish Captain Andrew Russell (Paul Blackthorne) makes a counter-offer: the village can play his cricket team. If the villagers win they will not have to pay the lagaan for three years, but if the English team wins they will have to pay three-times the lagaan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST OF BOLLYWOOD... May 31 2004
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
I admit that I love films with Anglo-Indian themes. I also love period pieces. So, when I discovered Lagaan, I was intrigued, though somewhat skeptical about its being a musical and about its underlying story. Still, I thought it was worth a shot. I am delighted that I took a chance, as I was riveted for the nearly four hours the film was on the screen. It is little wonder that it was a 2001 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film.
The film takes place in late nineteenth century India, during the time of the British Raj, in the small rural village of Champaner. It is a poor village against whom a tax, called a lagaan, is levied by the British. It appears that the lagaan goes to support the British cantonment that rules over the Central Indian province in which Champaner sits. The cantonment is commanded by an arrogant Captain Russell, who seems to care little for the customs, culture, and people of India. He typifies all that is bad about the reign of the British Raj.
Champaner has, unfortunately, had a long lasting drought and, as a farming community, the dry spell has been devastating, leaving the villagers on the brink of agricultural disaster. They have been awaiting the seasonal monsoon rains to no avail. When the villagers are told that Captain Russell has doubled the lagaan, as it had been cut in half the previous year due to the drought, they are angry. It is a now an issue of life and death for them.
This brings Bhuvan, a handsome, young, spirited farmer to the fore. Before he knows it, Bhuvan finds himself wagering the future of his village and province on a cricket game, as he has likened it to a local game played by the villagers.
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By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"Laggan" is an interesting Indian musical, that will capture your attention, even if you are not much into musicals in general, and you don?t know a thing about cricket, a sport that has a big place in this film.

Why? Well, to start with the plot of "Lagaan" is original, and the director (Ashutosh Gowariker) manages to make it credible. The story takes place in 19th century India, a British colony at that time. A group of villagers have been told that due to a whim of a British colonial officer they will have to pay double lagaan (a tax), despite the fact that they are suffering the effects of a drought. The villagers, led by Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) ask Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne) to understand their plight, and he tells them that there will not pay lagaan if the villagers win a cricket match. However, if they lose they will have to pay triple lagaan.

Bhuvan recklessly accepts the bet, and has to convince his friends that he did the right thing and that it is possible to win that match. First, though, they need to learn the rules of the game, something they do with the help of Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), Captain Russell s sister. Of course, there is more to this movie than that, for example the fact that Gauri (Gracie Singh) doesn?t like the attention that Bhuvan pays to Elizabeth, or the problems some villagers have with Bhuvan s leadership. Notwithstanding that, the more interesting part of this movie is how much the possibility of defeating the British, even if merely in a cricket game, meant for everybody.

All in all, I think that you will like this movie. It is interesting and picturesque, so much so that you hardly notice that it is almost four hours long. Recommended :)

Belen Alcat
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars great, but not exactly as expected
Product was delivered on time, and packaged well. The DVD cover was not the same as in the picture, and it was not the exact product I was expecting. The movie itself was fine.
Published on May 5 2011 by A
5.0 out of 5 stars The music will haunt you!
This is my 6th Bollywood movie and with each one I'm afraid it won't be as good as the last one. Once again I was not disappointed. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2005
4.0 out of 5 stars If it was not all about Bhuvan
India during the British Raj. Colorfully dressed dancing farmers are worried about their crops because there has been no rain. Read more
Published on June 29 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best of Bollywood
I am married with an woman origanally from India. Therefore been able to see Bollywood movies, even more then i wanted. But i have come to enjoy some of the Bollywood movies. Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by MartinHolland
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Classic
Everything there to make a movie just GREAT.
Wonderful music. Sweet story, Romance, humour, very entertaining and also suspense! Read more
Published on May 5 2004 by Kick-Azz-Angel
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilerating
As the result of a wager between native hothead Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) and the racist Capt. Russell (Paul Blackthorne), the inhabitants of an impoverished Indian village must defeat... Read more
Published on April 4 2004 by David Bonesteel
4.0 out of 5 stars My First Experience With a "Bollywood" Film
To be completely honest, I had no idea that I was in for an almost 4-hour Bollywood musical when I first began Lagaan. Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Fractal Rock
4.0 out of 5 stars Set aside a night to watch Lagaan
If cross-cultural hits like 'Monsoon Wedding' and 'Bend It Like Beckham' have piqued your interest in Indian cinema, a good way to dip your toe into the real Bollywood experience... Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2004 by Andy Orrock
5.0 out of 5 stars 5Star++
There are already over hundred reviews available for this movie, and there is nothing left for me to talk about, except that I have watched it over 10 times. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by A. Abhishek
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
Perfection is in the details, and this movie's got it. I haven't liked any movie as much as this for decades, and it's one of the very best that I've ever seen. Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2004
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