Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker
This is the most recent (as in when it was produced) Bollywood I’ve seen, and I am wary of watching anything more recent. It’s very obvious that something is changing in Bollywood just from seeing Dil to Pagal Hai, Taal, and then this. I thought this even before reading about how the music industry crashed in the late 90’s; the changes from that dovetailed with other changes in the industry, including economic liberalization, more popular music produced outside films, and production companies growing larger (so fewer films are independently produced). I think more exposure to Western influences and the awareness that more Western viewers might be watching changed how the stories were created. That just has a percentage to do with this film, which is one of my least favorites, even though it is the only film besides Mother India to be nominated for an Oscar. The plot concerns a village that has to pay a yearly tax to the British landlords; one man in the village rebels when the tax is unfairly raised. He makes a deal that if the village can beat the British in a cricket match, they will not have to pay the tax (but if they lose, they have to pay triple). This man has a love interest in the village but develops a more spiritual love with a British woman, the sister of the landlord, who teaches them the rules of cricket. Neither of the pairs have any chemistry. For that matter, most of the acting is typified, especially British people (they have no room for complaint, considering how Westerners portray minorities pretty consistently as types). The action is slow, there is no character development or believable development of relationships—I found it dull. I’m surprised this is one film credited with crossing over into Western success.
Song Highlights: The only song that stands out is the song performed by the main male and female characters around a circle at night. A very big non-highlight is when the English girl sings about being in love, in English. It only highlights even more how poorly-written the song is. Too bad, A.R. Rehman. He needs to match up his writing chops with good plots. Or is it the other way around, since Taal is his best score to date?
Rating: Although it is credited as being very successful at crossing over, it didn’t appeal to me. The last hour or so of the film is taken up with showing the cricket match in every detail. This is only interesting to those who are familiar with cricket, which excludes most American audiences.
Library Collection: I suppose you should, since it is only one of two to be nominated for an Oscar.