Lagaan Week Guest Post: Best of the Best, Perhaps Best Ever

Today's post comes courtesy an Aamir Khan fan who likes to call herself...Bhuvan! She is 29 years young and lives in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, along with her husband and son. Her son likes Aamir Khan, too, especially as Ram Shankar Nikumbh in the film Taare Zameen Par (2007), and especially as 'Bum Bum Bole' is played.  Thank you Bhuvan for sharing your Lagaan story. We may disagree on Rachel Shelley, but our unabashed love for the film is without a doubt worth celebrating!

I am fairly new to Indian movies. I started watching them in 2007, and almost got into the habit of devouring them. Today, I watch fewer movies but only because I have seen all the movies of my favourite actors. So now, I wait until something new comes up with the actors I like, or with a topic that interests me. Besides Bollywood, I very much enjoy watching American TV shows. I’m especially addicted to Supernatural and the new Hawaii 5-0. But now to the main subject of this post.

When I first heard about Lagaan I did not know anything about the movie. Only that Aamir Khan was playing the lead. Up until then I only knew him from Fanaa (2006) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Actually, I bought Fanaa because of Kajol, as it was her comeback film. I stumbled into a forum where my attention was called to Aamir Khan and then I remembered that I had Fanaa in my DVD rack. I put the DVD in and when this guy was shown the first time I thought to myself that he looked weird and was absolutely not my type. But the more scenes I saw with him, the better I liked him and at the end of the movie I was keen to know what other movies he did.

I remembered that I had Rang De Basanti, too. I watched RDB a few days after Fanaa. And after seeing Aamir only a few minutes in it, I was totally impressed. The characters of Rehan and DJ were so very different from each other and he did both really good. Okay, so he did not pass as a student because he looked older (which was different in 3 Idiots (2009)). But this is another topic. When Rang De Basanti was over I was interested more in the actor behind these characters. In the forum, where my attention to Aamir was called, they recommended Lagaan to me.

I tried to buy it but it was sold out in Germany. One could only get a hold of it on eBay. I tried my luck at a video rental shop and taraaaaaaa I was lucky! They even gifted me the DVD which had subtitles in German. Without any more information I played the DVD one quiet evening and started to watch the movie with full concentration and with extreme tension. At the end, I sat there with my nerves wracked, an open mouth, and all because I was totally thrilled.

When the movie starts and the story begins, I feel like transfered into another world. When I hear Amitabh Bachchan's voice I listen very closely because he radiates quiet and calm like none else. You get the feeling that you are in the middle of those ancient times and take part in the life of the farmers. At least I felt that way. It is fascinating how amazingly good the actors do their parts and literally become the people they portray. It was sort of strange to see for instance a Raj Zutshi, a Raghuvir Yadav or an Aditya Lakhia in regular clothes. And when I heard Amin Hajee speak, that was interesting, too. The sounds he makes in the movie were so very simple!

I like the complete cast but Rachel Shelley. I simply don’t like her and I guess this will never change. To me, she is the only minus point of the movie, which I can get over with a sort of selective viewing.

By now I have seen Lagaan almost 200 times and this, every time with tension and lots of fun. Lagaan is the most timeless movie I know. Who needs Avatar, Star Wars or any other new movie? Of course I watch them but no other movie comes even close to the qualities, Lagaan has. Everything fits so well – other than the British uniforms and Rachel Shelley. I thank God, that Ashutosh Gowariker could win Aamir Khan for this project. All the work they put into the making of the movie has paid off. Each time I watch Lagaan, I feel transferred into a different world from which I come back to my everyday life at the end. It usually does not take very long before I feel the need to go back to that special world and enjoy every minute.

I was asked about my most favourite scene. You will not be surprised to hear that the entire movie is my most favorite scene. It is very difficult for me to name special moments. But there are two that give me goosebumps every time.

The first one is the first time you see Aamir on the screen. When he looks direct into the camera you have the feeling that he is really looking directly at you. When I saw this scene in a movie theatre on the big screen for the first time, I sat there with big eyes and couldn’t close my mouth anymore!

My second very special moment is when Bhuvan sinks down at the end of the match, takes some soil in his hands and the sand trickles through his fingers. This is the moment I, like almost everyone else watching it, feel very relieved and satisfied.

I’d like to say a word or two about the music. I love every single note, A.R. Rahman composed. For me, he is the best composer in the Indian movie paradise. Especially with "Mitwa", he captured my heart. Javed Akhtar did the rest with his lyrics. The choreographer have done amazing work and made the actors dance really wonderful. Even Aamir showed great swiveling hips even though he is not really a good dancer.

Lagaan is a movie that gets under the skin and is absolutely exciting. I envy everybody who sees Lagaan for the first time and I envy everybody for the feeling they have after watching it for the very first time.


Shell said...

What a wonderful post! I love hearing how people get hooked by this fascination film industry, and it doesn't surprise me that this remarkable film has a place in many's journeys!

While I can't say I've watched Lagaan anywhere near 200 times, it will always be one of my favorite films ever!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you Shell for stopping by! That's a great point, I guess I've learned as I've grown older that the films we remember over the long term are those that offer enough to become part of us and our psyche...

...or those that we've seen a couple hundred times. :D I've probably seen Lagaan only about twenty-something times over 10 years, and I thought *I* was a fan!

suja said...

Watching Lagaan 200 times!! Sounds like an addiction :) I like Lagaan too but I've seen it only once...hmmm...maybe its time to put on the DVD again.

It also fascinates me that people from so many diverse cultures find themselves drawn to this film or Indian films in general. There are many culture specific things, big and small, which add meaning. How do you react to this film without all those layers?
For example, the game of cricket is a national passion, so every Indian saw this film on two levels - as a story, and as India playing England. If you dont come from a cricket mad country, how does that work? Do you put soccer in its place and imagine how that feels?
And then there are many small culturally meaningful things. For example, the joy of rain in India is something special, it speaks of life and hope in a way it doesnt in many other cultures where they rain is taken for granted. We have raagas in music for the rainy season, we just love it. How does it speak to a people from countries where rain represents cold and gloom?
Another one: The scene at the hillock where Aamir grabs Gracy's hand is metaphoric - 'haath pakadnaa'='holding the hand' means getting married. So by holding her hand, he gives her a kind of a promise. If you dont speak Hindi and know this meaning, dont you miss the significance?
In the dance scene where he plays the flute and the lyrics talk of Radha and Krishna - it tells you that like Krishna, Aamir flirts with many women but Gracy is his true love. If you dont know Krishna's story, wouldn't you miss this character defining moment?
I'm sure there are many other points but I just named a couple. It is indeed interesting to see all this committment to a (for you) foreign film.
Cheers. Suja

dunkdaft said...

200times. My god, some sort of record is this ! btw, cant't agree more on that goosebumps choice no. 2. that scene in finale is simply 'matchless'. Ditto with Bhuvan's expressions. (need i add, i cry everytime i watch it!) thank u Bhuvan for the post. Thx tbf.

theBollywoodFan said...

Suja: Excellent observations! 'Fascinating' is the ideal word in this case, I agree. It's one thing to cross the language barrier, quite another to overcome so very many for a film that's over three hours and a half long! I think it says a lot not only about the film, but about films as a whole. Long live cinema!

theBollywoodFan said...

Darshit: You've talked about the climax in a prior Lagaan Week, and I remember this bit about watching it for the first time. As the camera showed Russell celebrating the catch, I was one of those who truly thought it was over. And we go from that to the frame of him having crossed the boundary line, people gasping in the background as Russell too realizes what just happened, and the rest just finally coming to terms with the victory. All in less than a minute, although it feels longer. Great stuff!

As always, thank you for your visit and comment.

Amy said...

Culture is merely the way in which we express our humanity. It can be distilled into the most basic of emotions and experiences. Those we all share. As an American (of European descent), I don't have to replace the cricket, a game I know little about, with, say, baseball, to appreciate the drama in the game. Maybe rooting for the underdog belies my particular cultural affiliation because Americans typically LOVE to root for the underdog when we have no loyalty, but otherwise... It isn't difficult, either, when watching Lagaan to understand the hope for rain. It's the pathos we respond to, not the weather. And, need I say it, love is universal. The slightest of touches can speak volumes, metaphor aside.

theBollywoodFan said...

Amy! Thanks for your comment. I do agree. Precisely because of what you note, I think to the non-Indian or non-cricket-crazy audience, it wouldn't have mattered which vehicle would've been used to drive this film, since it's more about colonialism than about cricket.

Of course, the degrees to which one understands the cultures of the people portrayed in the film only adds (or takes away, depending on the quality of the film) to the appreciation thereof, and that cannot be ignored.

However, such is the power of visuals and music and words (albeit translated) -- there's no substitute, is there? If a film does well enough to transcend that cultural barrier, and Lagaan does that well, it deserves the kind of success Lagaan has achieved.

It's all intangible, but so is arguably all art. Hence the "long live cinema" comment.

I want to say I understand completely, because some of the foreign films I have seen have been the most impressionable. I like to think the potential is pervasive and limitless in that.

As an aside: I am reminded of the days immediately following Lagaan's release. The Indian media and renowned critics almost unanimously declared it "not worth spending 3.5 hours on," and within nearly a week (I kid you not, I wish I'd saved some of these reviews from some of the movie critics considered to be among the most reputable), they had taken down their one and two-star reviews and replaced with four and five-star ones.
All this while, it was the film critics among the British media who had from the very beginning recommended the film highly.

Something to be said about the role of cultures there, including those around journalistic integrity!