This is a type of movie for those who have never experienced a true Bollywood musical with a cinematic twist into the history of India. “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time” is a movie based on the inspiring story of the villagers who face a non-violent struggle against injustice and contrary of the British rulers. “Lagaan” which means “tax” (in the form of grains), is a story depicting a small village by the name of “Champaner” in Central Indian during the British Rule in 1893.
In this small village of Champaner is made up of a community of poor and innocent farmers who are happy plowing, sowing and praying for the rains and reaping harvest. Captain Andrew Russell, the British captain of the nearby cantonment, demands double of the usual Lagaan (Tax) from the villagers. The village’s representatives then go to meet with Captain Russell to explain the monsoons had not been adequate and as a result crops had suffered. Captain Russell decides to challenge the villages to a game of cricket with his team after three months. The captain knows that the villagers are ignorant of the game and its rules and therefore be beating retreat against his trained players. A young villager named Bhuvan accepts the challenge and starts to build his team of villages for the game with their colonial rulers despite the ignorance of the game.
Now comes to their aide the army captain’s younger sister Elizabeth Russell. Elizabeth finds the competition unfair to the Indians and decides to help Bhuvan and his friends, teaching them how to play cricket. First Elizabeth helps with pure sympathy for them but later she grows affection for Bhuvan. Although in respect Bhuvan see’s Elizabeth as a friend helping and nothing more. Elizabeth shows them and teaches them how the game is played and the rules that follow in the game. The team uses a large stick in place of a bat and a round stone as a ball. Each player is assigned certain tasks while the tension of the actual match draws closer.
Word gets around and people from miles away come to watch the match. This match now has become a prestige issue, and the British High Command makes it known that it will not stand to lose face at any cost. Finally, the day arrives and the match begins. Bhuvan and the villagers hope that they have covered all potholes, and hope for a miracle. But what the two had not banked on was treachery at the hands of one of their very own players, who had accepted a bribe from Captain Russell, to ensure that the Indian team loses.
Bhuvan and his team play a spectacular game against the British. Bhuvan’s defeat of the British team leads to the disbanding of the humiliated cantonment. In addition, Russell is forced to pay the taxes for the whole province and is transferred to Central Africa. This was also when India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983.
This movie not only has a great storyline, but also opened my eyes to a part of history that India went through but battled their way out. This story stretches out to an open audience of all ages, for those that don’t know much about the history of India this movie would be a good start. The movie overall shows you how the villagers live and work together as a team. It also shows how the British rule upon India. After learning the back ends of a cricket game, one they have never played was a great start for India. Today India continues to play cricket in hope to win another championship.
Aamir Khan takes his role in a fascinating step as he draws breathes from the air of the adobe he calls home and play’s a well balanced Bhuvan in the movie. He portrays his character in a way that it puts you inside Bhuvan’s psyche and enables the viewer to understand the character from a demeanor alone. His piercing eyes stare sharply like a hawk, catching his prey through the camera and leaving a haunting impression on an unsuspecting audience, drawing them deeper and deeper into his world.
Captain Andrew Russell’s character is brought to you by the talented Paul Blackthorne as he takes you perfectly into the eyes of his character that reflects his British pride that’s menacing and hostile. He performs with a well balance and bounces off the supporting cast with a great ease.