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70 mm Postcard Of Memories

'Lagaan', like 'Gadar', sells an escapist fantasy. But it does so with modest, subdued dignity.

70 mm Postcard Of Memories
70 mm Postcard Of Memories
According to film critic Deepa Gahlot, both Gadar and Lagaan are selling "an escapist fantasy of unbeatable Indian might" which makes our "collective Indian ego swell with pride". There's a marked difference though. Gadar's patriotism is damaging and annihilatory, it's against the basic tenets of humanity. However, the victory of Aamir Khan's scruffy 11 is replete with a quiet grace, it's not so much about the humiliation of the other but about the pride in one's own efforts. At the outset Bhuvan, Kachra, Guran, Lakha, Deva, Ismail, Ishwar, Goli, Arjan might all look like little curios in an antique shop but the dignity of their enterprise makes you connect instantly with their warmth, fortitude and resilience. Lagaan then is not just about a cricket match, it's not even about nationalism. It's a parable about a laudatory idea, the idea of coming together. Gadar's hero might fight a lone battle but Bhuvan will build up his team out of a dispersed set of villagers to stage the most memorable bloodless coup in recent cinematic history. His is not a personal win but a collective achievement. As he says in the movie: "Saath rahenge to muthhi ban jaayenge (Together we'll be a fist)." Bhuvan then is the epitome of the ideal leader, who will hit the last match-winning sixer but won't show it off on his personal scorecard. With a style rich in humour and humanity, Lagaan brings alive the spirit of the cinema of the '40s and the '50s which stressed on this spirit of solidarity—remember the song Saathi haath badhana. Gadar may have made more money but Lagaan makes money artistically. It definitely is a breakthrough popular film, one that brings back the decent cinema of yore which ended with the Bimal Roys and the Hrishikesh Mukherjees. Aamir, no doubt, has won more ardent admirers and a stature no other Khan can match. Or as Amod Mehra simply puts it: "He has become God."
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