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Friday, Oct 22, 2021
Outlook.com

The Empire Drives Back

Lagaan's Champaner XI is a fictional return to the spirit in which India internalised the master's sport

The Empire Drives Back
The Empire Drives Back
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Aamir Khan's Lagaan looks poised to be one of the biggest Bollywood hits in recent years. It has a gripping storyline, fantastic camerawork, and melodious music. But Lagaan is more than that. This colourful patriotic tale brings together the two most potent symbols of India's popular culture—Bombay films and cricket—and delves into the Indian mass psyche.

The story is well-known by now—a team of village men play cricket against a British team to save their lives, families and land, after arrogant British officer Captain Russell is enraged by the young peasant Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) describing cricket as a firangi version of gulli danda. If Bhuvan's team wins the match, their taxes would be revoked for three years. If they lose, they'd be trebled.

Thus cricket became an arena for asserting indigenous strength against the colonial state. Their native mastery of a colonial sport helps the villagers emphasise that their 'Indian' identity was in no way inferior to the whites. But unlike other Bollywood blockbusters, Lagaan is a filmic contribution to India's lost...
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