Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker.

Rich, epic Bollywood production about a poor farming village in India, 1893, under the yoke of the rajas and their British protectors. A cruel British officer will cancel their taxes for three years if the villagers defeat the soldiers at cricket, else their taxes are tripled. The villagers accept, but first have to pull together and learn the game.

The Captain is a pretty deep baddie here. The only appealing Brit is his sister, who wants to give the villagers a fair chance and coaches them. It doesn't hurt that she is smitten with Bhuvan, the idealistic village malcontent and ringleader. (Later: actually some of the other Brits have sporting and fair-play instincts).

Like many Indian films it is longer than the Euro/American version would be: three and three-quarters hours. Like all Indian films (even the horror films, I am told) there is singing and dancing.

It's very patriotic, a story of India coming together: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, even Untouchables. I don't quite get national obsessions with sports teams, but if the playing field really is a substitute for making war, then it must be a good thing.

I read up on cricket for this but still don't quite get it.