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November 26, 2001

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Lagaan -- Not our cuppa tea!

Lagaan Lagaan, the Indian entry, for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category, has stirred up a controversy in London through its powerful indictment of the British rule.

The film, which portrays the British in India as ruthless sadists and mafia-style crooks, has reportedly found favour with the US film establishment. It is now seen as a strong contender, alongside French film Amelie, the Sunday Telegraph states.

The three-hour epic, which has already won an award at the 54th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, has ruffled many a feather among the British. Andrew Roberts, a leading historian has condemned the film as "inaccurate", accusing the producers of "over-playing" the negative aspects of the British Raj and ignoring its many benefits. "British Empire in India brought peace, progress and stability to the country for 200 years."

Paul Blackthorne, who played the character of Captain Andrew Russell in the film, however, rose to Lagaan's defence. "The British, at the time, were not far short of Mafiosi and the film depicts them quite accurately. You would be hard-pressed to find a goodie at that time", he says.

Rachel Shelley, who also co-stars in the film, agrees. "I have read a lot of history and depictions of India by Victorian women at that time. I don't think anyone would disagree that we (British) were quite awful. The Colonialists who were out there were quite terrible and they thought of themselves as superior."

The last Indian film to have won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film was Mother India in the 50s.

PTI

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