4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Englishmen in Bollywood,
This review is from: Lagaan - Once Upon A Time In India [DVD]  (DVD)
We as the British are very quick to criticise Germany on how they seem to want to forget their involvement in World War 2, but we miss the fact that we caused a great deal of oppression and famine when the British invaded India.
While this story may not be exactly based on true events it is a wonderfully told story and does subconsciousily remind us of the hardships India has faced. Lagaan tells the story of Bhuman, a brave, courageous villager. Lagaan is a proportion of a farmers crop and serves as tax to the British rulers. When Captain Russell introduces 'triple lagaan' the villagers cannot afford it without starving and appeal to the English for mercy. The captain maliciously challenges Bhuman and the villagers to a cricket game which will either result in no lagaan for three years for the villagers, or triple lagaan for the British.
As weird a movie theme as it seems, Lagaan works really well. As the story unfolds we as the audience are really anxious and hope that the villagers succeed. In the actual cricket match I was completely on the edge of my seat and encountered a good mix of emotions - the plot isn't as predictable as it seems.
Quite rare to Bollywood is a good amount of English actors. Rachel Shelley is particularly good who plays the Captain's sister, Elizabeth; she heroically helps the village learn cricket so they at least have a fair chance against the English and falls in love with Bhuman. It is impressive Shelley speaks a good amount of Hindi in the film and also sings in one of the musical numbers (even if in English).
If you're a fan of foreign films I would advise to give this a go. Lagaan is representative of Bollywood in that there are musical numbers but these don't steal away from the plot too much like they can tend to do in other films in the genre. It's a shame this film missed out on the oscar in 2002!