Once Upon a Time in India (India 224min.)
directed by: Ashutosh Gowariker
starring: Aamire Kahn; Gracy Singh; Rachel Shelley; Paul Blackthorne
says: "LAGAAN is a 4-hour psuedo-Bollywood epic of legendary proportions,
filled with good triumphing over evil and injustice in a most satisfactory
way. In fact, LAGAAN is structured very much like a legend, complete with
predictable plot, and over-the-top melodrama. But you know what? When you've
got such satisfying emotional release, fabulous, Indian song-and-dance numbers,
a sexy as all get out male lead (and a gorgeous female lead to boot), you
can't really go wrong.
"Bhuvan is the local superhero (read: can do anything and can do no wrong) in an Indian village in the late 1800's. When he inadvertantly insults the game of cricket in front of his adversary Captain Russell (a British Dick Dastardly, just missing the twirling mustache) the EVIL Captain makes a wager with Bhuvan. The villagers must beat the British soldiers in a game of cricket. If they do, he will waive the lagaan (a tax of grain paid to the Empire) for the next three years. If they lose, they must pay TRIPLE lagaan... quite a blow considering the drought which has made it impossible for them even to pay the standard lagaan this year.
"With help from Gauri, the young villager woman who loves him, and Elizabeth, Captain Russell's sweet sister who sees the injustice her brother is doing and secretly helps the villagers learn the game, Bhuvan puts together an initially resentful and angry team of villagers to try and save their village.
" The film is beautiful... and that's in addition to Bhuvan and Gauri! Sweeping Indian vistas, gorgeous costumes... and the musical numbers. Wow! There were only a few of them, but they just made me want to get up and dance. Aamir Kahn as Bhuvan has got the moves as well as the bod, and Gracy Singh as Gauri has both plus a remarkable voice as well.
"Speaking of Kahn as the impossibly handsome, amazingly gifted, unbelievably heroic Bhuvan... he produced the film as well. He's a massively popular Indian pop star, and his celebrity serves him well in this role.
"LAGAAN is a helluva lot of fun. To really get in the mood, Scot, Bob and I had Indian food delivered for the intermission. And you know? That four-hour running time? Didn't really notice it. Honest." 3 1/2 cats