The greatest cricket match ever played

The last three soccer games (or football matches) at the Euro 2008 tournament have each gone into extra time. Congratulations to Spain for winning against Italy in penalties today and delivering a fine performance under immense pressure, for at stake was a berth in the semi-finals.

But the stakes were not near as high as those in the cricket match in Lagaan, right? Lose, and pay teen guna lagaan, i.e. triple tax. Win, and go tax-free for three years. This applied not only to Champaner, but to the entire province! No wonder these stakeholders were so concerned when things took a turn for the worse:


So here are a few highlights from the greatest cricket match ever played. Apologies to the Kapil Dev-led Indian team that won the World Cup in 1983 (fittingly, in England).

The three-day cricket match in Lagaan was played by the hills. Spectators from neighboring villages were present. Leaders from both sides sat in the pavilion. Lagaan XI bowled first. The star there was Kachra, a spinner, whose bowling did not produce any results until day two. That is when he took over. He even took a hat-trick!


(Aside: From a cricketing standpoint, there was little to pick on. One could appreciate the technical components of the game done very well. For example, a ball spins more (and swings more) the older it gets. These were accurately depicted in the film.)

When the Lagaan XI batted, they struggled early and often. Lakha's was one of the most dramatic one-ball innings one would witness:


See, poor Lakha, after switching allegiances, was to have his 'head knocked off' per Captain Andrew Russell, who entrusted this task to the bowler (pictured left) who reminded me of former Australian cricketer Merv Hughes (pictured right):


Back to the match. Poor Ram Singh, who served as announcer for the game, got a tight slap to the face from Captain Russell for celebrating a boundary.


Baagha's entrance was amazing, WWE-style!


But they kept losing wickets, until the injured Ismail came on to the field to bat a second time (after being retired hurt before).


Tipu was Ismail's runner (Tipu, you might recall, was the kid with Bhuvan when the latter first created and displayed a bat to the village, and hit the ball so well and high it hit a bell in the temple). And Ismail and Bhuvan did well. But it wasn't about to get any easier. They lost nine wickets before Kachra came to bat with two overs to go. Somehow, Bhuvan ended up on strike on the last delivery of the match.

They needed a four from it. Bhuvan recalled all his believers and doubters...


...and hit it up in the air (given the field placement mandated an attempted six, not a four). There was a man under it, and Bhuvan was caught out! Captain Russell had taken the catch. It was over. Or was it?


Wait a minute, he crossed the boundary line.


It's a SIX! Lagaan XI had won! Bhuvan could not believe it, and fell to the ground in what is called a 'sajdah' (prostration), bowing before God in submission and thankfulness.


Ram Singh was ecstatic. Hum jeet gaye (we have won), he announced.


And the crowd stormed the field.


Elizabeth was so proud of Bhuvan. She really was the brain behind it all.


What's more, it even rained amid the celebrations!


His Highness, Raja Puran Singh, had come a long way since being asked by Captain Russell to eat the meat.


And Bhuvan and Gauri shared a rare intimate moment...


...which was not oblivious to Elizabeth, who retracted from the scene after having run on to the field to congratulate Bhuvan. Those eyes said it all.


Post-match breakdown
The cantonment abandoned Champaner. Captain Russell and his men were transferred to Central Africa. And Elizabeth went back to London, but not before saying one final goodbye to the people she had come to love so much. This had to be one of the most touching scenes in the film, in which Elizabeth touched maai's feet in respect...


...hugged Gauri in acceptance...


...and bid farewell to Bhuvan...


...only to have him say:


Sorry Bhuvan, she might not have won your heart, but she certainly did win mine. Someone, stop Elizabeth from leaving! Please! She really deserved so much better.


Ironically, here is a relevant dialog exchange for the moment (from earlier in the film):

Elizabeth: This is not fair.
Andrew: So is life.

So there we have it. A dramatic end to a dramatic cinematic journey. What a film! My Lagaan DVD should be arriving this week, so I'll hope to review it then. Until then, this concludes an exciting Lagaan Week.

A big thank you to all who read and responded. Have a great start to the week, everyone!


Movie Rating: 5/5 (naturally!)

My Classification: G (one of the cleanest films, suitable for all audiences)

Official website: http://www.lagaan.com/
Visit in Internet Explorer; Firefox wasn't around in 2001 -- there, I'm even defending them now :o)

7 comments:

abhinemo said...

Do you know my friend, that you are completly Crazy. I mean, a "Lagaan week". Complete crazy stuff.

Don't get me wrong. Craziness is an adorable trait. Craziness shows that you have a passion and which in turn shows that you are still a human in the world of man turning into a machine. :)

Great going buddy. The snapshots look awesomly crisp and the narration is great (as always). You have great signs of becoming a writer.

Just one request, mate. Please avoid calling the beautiful game as Soccer. Soccer is a term used by the people who couldn't figure out what "Football" is. The came up with their own game, term it as "Football" and the world started caling the original "Football" as "Soccer". Eh, Do I sound crazy?? Football fanatic, rather :)

Keep on the craziness.

Anonymous said...

Have you read the book From Balham to Bollywood by the bowler who reminded you of Merv Hughes?

theBollywoodFan said...

Abhinemo: Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. You hit the nail on the head. 'Lagaan Week' seemed fitting for a pagla for the film!

As for the term 'soccer'...it really comes down to trying to appreciate the term 'football'. I truly enjoy both football and American football, and when I moved to the US, I just decided to rid the people I was speaking to of any ambiguity. Not that anyone would mistake Italy-Spain playing American football, but you get the point :) Hope you're enjoying the European championship; it's been great.

Hi Anonymous: Thank you for your comment. I have not read the book, and thanks for reminding me of it! Hope to read it some time this summer.

Cheers.

memsaab said...

I finally learned at least the basic rules of cricket from this film....after watching many a match with British and S. African friends who tried (and failed) to get me to understand what was going on.

:-)

theBollywoodFan said...

Great going Memsaab! Knowing the basics of cricket might just come in handy while watching some of the other films, since there are often references to terms from the sport.

I went through a very similar experience with 'American' football, a sport I love. Its terms were a significant complement to my corporate vocabulary, and I never thought of that when I first started watching the game :)

salek said...

I was on TIME magazine’s site when I found an interesting article about how a British game like cricket became so popular in India.

Search for "Subcontinental Shift" at TIME.com

Also read another article about Hollywood's increasing ties with India.

Search for "Spielberg's Bollywood Wedding" at TIME.com

I would have left links to the articles but it seems that long URL addresses are cut off when included in comments.

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you Salek. I just read this one on cricket and what it means to India, and it is well said! Although I thought satellite TV did not take off in India until much much later than 1983 :) (it was more the late 1980s).