written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker
with Aamir Khan and Gracy Singh
runs July 5-11 at Varsity
After three hours and 45 minutes, I still don't understand a thing about cricket. Fortunately, such confusion doesn't diminish the enjoyment of Lagaan, a rousing Oscar-nominated Hindi-language epic about noble peasants casting off the colonial yoke of British dominion by means of a cricket match in 1893 India. The patriotic melodrama is so clear that you almost don't need to read the subtitles. Most importantly, all that cricket is regularly broken up by Busby Berkeley-style production numbers. Every 30 minutes—like clockwork—the music swells and everyone bursts into a lip-synching, hip-shaking frenzy amid astonished goats and chickens. "Chale chalo!" ("We'll walk ahead!"), goes the irresistible chorus of one ditty, and you'll feel like sing- ing along.
The corny plot unfolds like The Patriot meets The Magnificent Seven: Peasant Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) rallies his village against the English occupiers led by spiteful Capt. Russell, who sneeringly offers to suspend the oppressive lagaan (land tax) if the peasants can beat their overlords in a game they've never seen before. (Assembling and training the diverse, motley team—e.g., chasing chickens for conditioning—makes for slapstick laughs.) Meanwhile, Bhuvan romances beautiful Gauri (Gracy Singh), but his muscular charm also attracts the British captain's sister, Elizabeth.
Bhuvan draws his squad from all creeds and castes, including one untouchable whom he—gasp!--dares to touch. His 11-man side pointedly symbolizes the ideal of a modern, powerful, multicultural India finally united to compete against its former colonizers. ("One finger can be broken; a fist cannot!") Why it takes three days to complete a single cricket match will still leave you confounded. The final score, however, is obvious: Sheer fun.