The land that made Lagaan

Dinesh Raheja

As the night of reckoning nears, March 24, 2002 -- the 74th Annual Academy Awards that held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles -- the excitement mounts; so does speculation.

Here's what the members of the Indian film industry have to say on Aamir Khan's Lagaan's chances at the Oscars:


Rekha (actress):

After Lagaan, I am once again hopeful that we can still aspire to cinema of the calibre of Guru Dutt [Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool] and Mehboob Khan [Mother India].

Irrespective of whether I work with them [Ashutosh Gowariker and Aamir Khan] or not, I am happy that there is a director with the conviction and vision of Ashutosh Gowariker and an actor like Aamir.

The Oscars will do themselves proud by honouring a genuine winner like Lagaan.


Karan Johar (director):

The probability of India winning an Oscar has become real after Lagaan entered the nominees' list. Now we all want the Oscars and not the regular awards. Ashutosh has set high standards for us (the rest of the Hindi film directors).

Ashutosh is an astounding storyteller. A superb narrator. There are no loose moments in the film. On first viewing, I felt the bhajan [O palanhare] slowed down the tempo of the film. When I saw it again, I thought it fitted in just fine.

If Lagaan wins an Oscar, we won't be called Bollywood any more. We will be called the land that made Lagaan.


Subhash Ghai (director/producer):

If Lagaan wins at the Oscars, it will only be just. It deserves the Oscar for its content, technique as well as Aamir's brilliant portrayal of Bhuvan.

Lagaan's win will make only one billions Indians proud. We have been treated as backbenchers at the Oscars for quite a while now.

It is time for them to prove that we, whether Hollywood or Bollywood, belong to one world.

Cinema is known as an expression of human experience and Lagaan is a perfect example. Lagaan is purely an Indian film, whether in its music, drama or story.

It deserves the attention of the whole world. They should realise that Indian filmmakers can be brilliant despite constraints of money, time and (local) market demands.


Shyam Benegal (director):

I have seen all the films Lagaan is up against for the Foreign Film category, except No Man's Land [Bosnia and Herzegovina], which I feel is the toughest competitor.

Lagaan is definitely better than the films I have seen. Its ace card is not the fact that it is an exotic film -- most song and dance films made in the East would be exotic for the West.

Lagaan's biggest asset is that besides being a well-narrated and enacted film, it's a metaphor for India's struggle for independence, the Gandhian methodology, and the aspiration for higher values.

Lagaan's universal appeal lies in the victory of the underdog against all odds -- audiences allover the world find wish-fulfillment in such films.

"If Lagaan wins the Oscar and gets a huge release abroad, we will make inroads into new arenas. Till now, only Satyajit Ray from India was able to break into the art circuit of the international arena.

Lagaan could achieve likewise in the commercial arena at the international level.


Sunil Shetty (actor):

Lagaan was my favourite film last year and I want it to win.

But I am told by friends in Los Angeles and elsewhere that Amelie [France] is a very strong contender. Considering the way they have treated Indian films so far at the Oscars, I am sceptical about Lagaan's chances.


Tanuja Chandra (director):

I haven't seen the other films but I don't think Lagaan will win. For the Foreign Film category, the Americans prefer a serious, socially relevant film. Lagaan has a relevant story but with its share of songs and dances, it is too mainstream and light for their (Americans') taste.

Personally, I really enjoyed Lagaan and, towards the end of the film, was whole-heartedly rooting for Bhuvan’s team to win.


Javed Akhtar (poet, lyricist):

I am optimistic that Lagaan stands a good chance of winning an Oscar, though I haven't seen the other entries competing with Lagaan.

The Western world is bound to find the visuals and the flavour of the film exotic. Aamir and Ashutosh have spared no efforts in generating interest for the film and ensuring that a large number of people see the film."


Nadira (yesteryear actress):

Lagaan will win the Oscar race for the Best Foreign Film with the jockey looking back. Jockey looking back is a racing term that means it will win with no competitor in sight for a long way.


David Dhawan (director):

I have not seen the other films competing but Lagaan's chances at the Oscars are very bright.

I knew it the day I saw the trial of the film. I told my wife and friends that this film deserves an Oscar. It is a film that has multiple merits: excellent dialogues and visually exciting.

Ashutosh's narration is excellent. His shot-to-shot editing during the climax was brilliant. He held your attention in a vice-grip the climax. Great films are not planned, they happen.


Vikram Bhatt (director):

I have not yet seen Lagaan. I was too busy with the post-production work of Raaz at the time of Lagaan's release."


The director himself, Ashutosh Gowariker:

I think the toughest film we are up against is No Man's Land. Amelie is a competitor too, though I feel Lagaan is more wholesome and the spectrum is wider.

With the nomination, we got the cake; let us see if we get the cherry as the topping.


Design: Uday Kuckian

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