Lost, in no man's land

A million hopes came crashing down on Monday morning when Bosnian film No Man's Land was announced as the Best Foreign Language Film at the 74th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Lagaanese in the city were inconsolable. It was a close call and India's dream of having its first-ever Oscar, sadly, remained just that. spent the whole night watching movies on HBO, so that I wouldn't miss any of the Oscar action in the morning. Though I wasn't really sure Lagaan would win, I was hopping for a miracle. When it didn't win, I was depressed. Nothing went right for me yesterday," says commerce student Dipti Pradhan.

Housewife Rajashree Bhave, isn't feeling as dejected, but is finding it difficult to console her nine-year-old son, Aditya, who had desperately pinned his hopes on Lagaan and his favourite actor, Aamir Khan. "He didn't even have his dinner properly. He was so excited about the whole thing. He kept asking me if Lagaan would bag the prize and I told him it would. Now that it lost, he is feeling very sad," says Bhave. at all, bookies in the city, may have ended up winners. "Almost everybody bet on Lagaan. Let's just say lakhs of rupees have been lost," a top bookie told Pune Times.

Film critics and film-makers however, are being more rational about Lagaan's Oscar experience. "Everybody just got carried away by the hype, without understanding the ground realities. Has anyone in India seen No Man's Land or Amelie? So what's the point in suffering from a persecution complex," says Vishal Bhandari who has made films like Maya-The Reality and A Pocket Full Of Dreams.

Bhandari has seen No Man's Land and says it's a fabulous film. "Not Lagaan is not good, but the theme of two opposite camp soldiers trapped in a trench is always interesting to watch. I guess that's what impressed the Academy," he said.

Many still feel there is no cause to lament, as Lagaan has already achieved much more than what it set out for. "Firstly, the film will now get main-stream release which will make Aamir richer by several millions. India too, both Aamir and Lagaan have achieved an icon-like status, so there's nothing to bemoan. Nothing is lost," feels Bhandari.

Film critic Bunny Reuben remembers how in 1957, Mother India lost the Oscar by a single vote.

"It's a very complex selection procedure and the level of politics is very high. Giving an award to Bosnia could have been politicallymotivated, as the US is playing a significant role in that country. But then, even Lagaan has its weak points.

Its length, and song 'n' dance routine was always going to be a hindrance. Lagaan did get its due by the very fact that it was nominated for the Oscars. It is a fabulous film and will always be considered so, whether Oscar thinks so or not," says Reuben.

While Bollywood and optimistic Lagaan fans can console themselves, one wonders when such a picture-perfect situation will emerge again. An outstanding film, awesome direction and a gutsy producer/actor who backed it down to the last ball.

By Sandhiya Iyer, dated Monday March 25, 2002.
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