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[Net bats around Lagaan][Net bats around Lagaan]

   Nidhi Taparia Rathi

In a spirited reel-life saga, Bhuvan and his motley band of men beat the English at their own game. But coming up trumps at the Oscars will be a completely different ballgame. However, if there's one thing that Lagaan won't find missing in the run-up to the big day, it's support from the crowds back home.

For there are hordes of Indians fielding for its success - and many of them are doing it online. The days preceding the Oscars always witness frenetic activity on the Internet, with hardcore movie buffs promoting their favourite films and attempting to predict the outcome.

But, this year, Indian fans are particularly vocal simply because Lagaan is among the nominees for the best foreign film.

"I have seen this film 11 times, and every time I see it, I fall in love with it even more deeply," says Sunil Masand, on the three-hour forty-four-minute long film.

Like Sunil, most Indian surfers are taking full advantage of the interactivity offered by the Net to rally behind the sole nominee from the subcontinent. Unofficial sites like Filmfestivals.com allow them to post reviews and comments expressing their solidarity with the film's bid at the Oscars. "Lagaan deserves the Oscar" declares one surfer categorically. Other messages border on the hysterical "No cricket, No Lagaan sirf Oscar chaiye" says another girl, insisting that "after all, Bollywood Hollywood se kum nahin." The film has whipped up a patriotic fervour, with messages ending in "Hum honge kamiyab 24th March."

Numerous Web sites are riding the crest of Lagaan's wave of success. Most Indian portals and those with a wide Indian readership have dedicated message boards for this purpose. How would you like to wish the Lagaan team? Perhaps on MSN's forum? You could also add to the 1703 members who share messages, news, photos, files and links on Indiatimes's Lagaan Club or just leave a note on Indya.com's message board and vote in HT's poll.

Astrologers are also busy trying to predict a win for the film, if an email update from the Indiatimes club is to be believed. Elsewhere, avid fan Naved Hussain has decided to start a signature campaign for Lagaan just like the one begun by these students. Shilpa Sharma chats me up to ask what I think of Amelie, the strongest contender for the award. Ankur, on the other hand, runs French film down saying "It's time Indian films that have a chance!"

But the most asked question is: What are Lagaan's chances of winning? To get a whiff of what people think, log on to discussion forums like Ezboard where surfers discuss the flaws and the plus points of the film, its competition and even whether it should have been nominated ahead of Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. A post on a Musicmasala.com invites comparisons between Amelie and Lagaan.

Even fans of A R Rehman are rejoicing, because an Oscar nomination would mean bigger things for the composer.

Some look at history for an indication of Lagaan's fate: Netizen Satyanshu says it's tough to win given our past record, but hopes for the best.

Young Indians are recollecting instances of lost glory on discussion boards. Rahisha says, "Didn't Mother India lose the award by one point when it was nominated in 1957?"

Sites like Zulm and Indiaplaza, which offer the film's DVDs, are using the Oscar nomination and the patriotic spiel to push up sales. Most of them have the latest information, discussion threads and viewer reviews.

It's one thing to root for our own country's nominee while dismissing the other entries that most of us haven't even watched. But for those who want a more objective forecast, check out some online bookies. Lagaan has very little hope at the Oscars, judging by the odds placed on it by these bookies. Amelie is the hot favourite at 3:1, while Lagaan weighs in at number three (6:1), behind No Man's Land (4:1). And it's practically the same story at Blue Square.

But until March 24, all nominees are equals, and we have every right to dream.

More Like This:
-- Lagaan's Competition : See what this year's entry from India is up against
-- Best Actor : Which of these five men will take home the Oscar?

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