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Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) Poster

Trivia

Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Spoilers (2)
The first cut of the film was 7 hours and 30 minutes long.
The first Bollywood production in 30 years to use synchronized sound. An Arri535 camera, brought over from Germany, was used to facilitate sync-sound recording. Most Indian films are dubbed entirely in the studio in the process known as ADR.
Model turned actress Sonali Bendre was interested in playing "Gauri" but Aamir Khan rejected her, felt that she looked much like a Westerner.
The movie was shot in villages of Bhuj (Gujarat). Bhuj was destroyed in an earthquake on 26th January 2001, six months after the movie was shot.
India's official entry to the Academy Awards in the category of 'Best Foreign Language Film'.
Lagaan has many parallels with Bhuvan Shome (1969). Amitabh Bachchan is the narrator in both the movies. The hero and heroine's name are the same, Bhuvan and Gauri. Suhasini Mulay who played the heroine in Bhuvan Shome, played the hero's mother in Lagaan. Both movies were shot in Gujarat.
Aamir Khan got his ears pierced so that he could actually wear earrings.
Aamir Khan wore his wife's earrings for the role of Bhuvan.
Abhishek Bachchan was offered a role in the film, but he turned it down.
During the final cricket match, one of the British players, Smith, gets run out. As the actor ran back to the crease he fell, landing on his cricket bat and dislocating his left shoulder.
The village shown in the film is titled Champaneer, which is supposed to be located in Madhya Pradesh. This is a fictitious place, but there is a place called Champaneer near Vadodara that is now a World Heritage Site. Coincidently, Vadodara and Bhuj, where the film was shot, are in the same state of Gujarat.
Lagaan's shooting was done in kutch district of Gujarat. The places are Vijay vilas palace-Mandavi, Prag Mahal- Bhuj , and the Field between Jam Kunariya and Kotay near Bhuj. Aamir Khan and his team were much impressed by the villagers of Kotay and Kunariya. After 6 months of shooting there was a high scale earthquake in the village. After this Aamir donated much of his Lagaan earnings for relief efforts to help the village.
The movie had the biggest number of British actors ever to be cast in a single movie in the history of Indian Cinema.
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Shah Rukh Khan was offered the role of Bhuvan but rejected it.
For the preparation of his role as the untouchable Kachra, Aditya Lakhia read P. Sainath's Everybody Loves a Good Drought, for the authenticity of the character.
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Paul Blackthorne spent six months learning Hindi for his role in the movie.
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"Matangi Mixtape" by M.I.A. sampled the song "Ghanan Ghanan".
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Preity Zinta was offered Gracy Singh' s role. But she could not commit 4 months to the film.
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Lagaan was highly inspired from Naya Daur (1957). Starring:- Dilip Kumar, Vyjayintimala. Directed by B.R. Chopra.
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Ameesha Patel auditioned for the role of Gauri.
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The lead role of Gauri was offered to Rani Mukerji but she couldnt do the film because dates were not available.
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Solace song "Innocent One" from the album Opium Head sampled the song "Mitwa".
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A making of the film titled "Chale Chalo- Making of Lagaan" aas released in 2004.
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The film was shot in a single schedule of 6 months.
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Aamir Khan had to face many balls on his body for the scene where Bhuvan gets injured from a bouncer.
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Scottish actor Gerard Butler had also auditioned for the role of Captain Andrew Russel.
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In the last days of shoots, a real match between British and Indian teams was played, which the British eventually won.
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10 to 20 thousands people were required as the audience, who were invited from nearer villages.
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To motivate the crowd of thousands to act like audience, Aamir Khan sang his famous song "Ae Kya Bolti Tu".
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The initial budget for the film was 12 crores, which was raised to 28 crores by the end of shooting.
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Preity Zinta, Sonali Bendre, Amisha Patel were all considered for the role of Gauri. Aamir thought Bendre looked to urban and modern for the character. Eventually the role went to TV actress Gracy Singh, who was a known face from her role in hit show 'Amaanat'.
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Aamir Khan decided to pierce his ears and wear earrings for his role. Incidentally, he had borrowed the silver rings that he wore from Kiran Rao, who was an assistant editor on sets. Aamir was at that time married to Reena Dutt.
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Since there were no luxury hotels in Bhuj, Aamir Khan had taken up a newly constructed apartment complex and furnished it completely for the crew. Security was set up and a special housekeeping team was brought to take care of the crew's needs.
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While shooting for the film, Gowarikar suffered a slip disc and had to rest for 30 days. During this period, he had his bed next to the monitor and continued with his work.
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Before the worldwide release of the film, Khan screened the film especially for the villagers of Bhuj, where the film was shot.
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A lot of the crowd that we saw cheering during the match scene, were actual villagers who came every day to be a part of the film. They would sit patiently in sun the entire day while the film was shot.
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Two of the British actors Jamie and Katkin were dating while they were filming 'Lagaan' and were eventually married off on the sets of the film which had a make shift temple in it. As it was done according hindu religion, Aamir and Reena performed the Kanyadaan ritual.
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'Lagaan' started the concept of having a first assistant director as part of the crew for Bollywood. Farhan Akhtar suggested Apurva Lakhia's name to Khan. Lakhia eventually made his debut as a director with 'Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost'.
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'Lagaan' was the first Indian film to premiere in China. Aamir Khan would later be one of the most successful actors in this country.
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The cast and crew were present during the screening of the film in Bhuj. It was screened at a local cinema hall which was packed with eager viewers. During the screening there was a load shedding but the screening continued with help of generators.
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Director Ashutosh Gowarikar had approached Aamir Khan for the film and the actor heard the script in details and gave his consent. But the challenge for the director remained as no producer was ready to back the film. Those who did agree, had their own conditions and wanted change in scale and story which Gowarikar wasn't keen on implementing. It was on the director's behest that Aamir Khan decided to turn producer for the film.
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In 2011, Dev Anand suddenly realized that his 1990 movie "Awwal Number" starring Aamir Khan and himself was remade into "Lagaan" by Aamir without any due credits. He reiterated that the theme of a cricketing underdog with a passion to do or die for his country was originally showcased in his movie.
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Director Ashutosh Gowariker didn't want to make a blockbuster commercial hit. He just wanted to tell a story he really believed in.
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There were no compromises made in the production. Everything from hiring the British cast to constructing an entire village from scratch were all the original ideas of Ashutosh Gowariker.
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The cricket match was shot in the scorching heat of 48 degrees, including the scenes that had over 10,000 extras. In such sweltering conditions, several actors even fainted on set but the shoot kept on rolling.
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The cricket match was the most difficult segment to shoot. The game was scheduled to be shot in 3 weeks but it dragged on for over 8 weeks!
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The match was initially planned to contain two innings as in conventional test matches. The decision to keep it of single inning was made just one day before its shooting.
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Aamir Khan initially thought that the movie will not work although he liked the script. He thought the project was very risky. But after he read out the script to his mother, father and Reena (his then wife). They fell in love with it and insisted that he had to be a part of the movie.
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Reena Dutta who was the executive producer, despite not having any film-making experience took her role so seriously that she even threatened to either shelve the movie or resign if the team continued working this slow.
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Aamir Khan initially wanted to keep moustache in the film as he felt that how could Bhuvan manage regular shaving in condition of drought. However, eventually he dropped the idea.
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The casting was done with a lot of clarity with the focus solely on the characters.
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Ashutosh Govarikar only casted those Indian actors, who weren't well in playing cricket to get fit in their characters. However, during the shoot of cricket match, it became his biggest problem cause they couldn't play it in that way.
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Sha Rukh Khan wanted his film "Asoka" to be India's official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. However, he later recognized that "Lagaan" was a better film for that.
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Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic late Roger Ebert gave a glowing review to the film. Speaking of the vast expanse of Lagaan's filmscape, Ebert wrote, "As a backdrop to the action, there is India itself. It is a long time since I praised a movie for its landscapes; I recall Dr Zhivago (1965) or Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and indeed like David Lean, director Ashutosh Gowariker is not shy about lingering on ancient forts and palaces, vast plains, and the birthday-cake architecture of the British Raj, so out of place and yet so serenely confident."
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Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic late Roger Ebert gave a glowing review to the film. He praised the movie for its landscapes and even compared it with "Dr Zhivago" (1965) and "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), and Ashutosh Govarikar with David Lean.
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Bhanu Sthaniya who had won an Oscar for Best Costume Design for the film "Gandhi" served as the same in this film too. Interestingly, "Lagaan" would also get nominated for an Oscar.
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First and only time, Aamir Khan and both his wives appeared in a single project.
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Bhanu Athaiya, who served as the Costume Designer for this film would later work in "Swades" (2004), also directed by Ashutosh Govarikar. Both these films also won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
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Bhanu Athaiya and A. R. Rahman, both worked in the film. The former had already won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and the later would won the award in 2009 for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
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Four years ago when Gowarikar conceived the story idea, Aamir rejected it outright. "The idea of a bunch of villagers in 1893 playing cricket to evade lagaan (levy) was not palatable on first hearing," recounts the actor.
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Even after all these years, the cast members still refer to each other by character name.
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The lack of comfortable accommodation wasn't the only obstacle the Lagaan crew faced. The filming was also interrupted by the noise of planes flying overhead and wind. The noises of planes used to delay the shooting by by 20 minutes.
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The cast and crew members had to travel from their hotel to the location by bus at 5 AM, everyday. To ensure that shooting isn't delayed, Aamir laid down a rule that If you can't make it to the bus on time, you're going to get left behind. What he didn't foresee was the fact that he would become the victim too. One fine day, Aamir found himself stranded outside the hotel when he reached at 5:05 AM.
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Sachin Tendulkar had the most interesting reaction while watching Lagaan. At a preview screening, Aamir recalls seeing Sachin look tensed during the final match.
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Paul Blackthorn found himself ashamed of his country after reading about the British Raj in India.
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Rachel Shelley, who didn't know a word of Hindi, memorized everyone's lines so she could understand the scenes better.
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Paul and Rachel weren't the only ones who struggled with their lines, though. Out of habit, Aamir found himself slipping into Hindi between his dialogues.
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None of the extras on set had ever lip-synced to a song before. To make it easier for them, they were all asked to assemble a few days before the shoot and sing Ghanan Ghanan until they knew every word perfectly.
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Two repositories of cricketing wisdom were Aamir's companions as he went about the task of putting together India's biggest sports-theme film - Mihir Bose's The History of Indian Cricket and Sachin Tendulkar.
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Aamir Khan personally invited cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and his wife Anjali to a private screening of the film as he always first shows his films to Sachin. Unfortunately, they couldn't make it.
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Actor A. K. Hangal also suffered an injury and had to go back to Mumbai.
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For the film crew, the most daunting task was Champaner itself. Says Desai, who has designed sets for other period films like "Devdas" and "1942: A Love Story": "Creating a village on barren land is a mammoth task, a different ball game from putting up sets in a studio."
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The house of a Harijan, for instance, had to be a thatched unit at the end of the village while that of the mukhia (headman) had to be centrally situated with a high, pukka roof. Recalls Kanku Dhanji, one of the 150 artisans who painted the houses: "Constructing Champaner was like rebuilding our lives. At the end, the village looked more real than our little Kunaria."
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Before shooting commenced, actors actually stayed in Champaner's houses for a day to familiarise themselves with their new if temporary abodes. Says Aditya Lakhia who played Kachra: "I hardly speak in the film but my presence is such that I had to live like a Harijan through temperatures varying from four to 40 degrees Celsius."
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No matter what the outside temperature, the cast had to don bandis (jackets), dhotis, corsets or gowns if the shot so required. They also had to shed their urban sensibilities. When Shelley went into a tantrum because she did not have a pin for her hat, she was firmly told that she could get one only the following day, when it arrived from Mumbai.
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As preliminary preparation, Paul Blackthorn was asked to learn Hindi and horseriding. He said- "For three months I did nothing but rehearse my lines in Hindi. They were so tough that at one point I thought of giving up."
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The name "Champaner" itself was not entirely a product of Gowarikar's imagination. It was inspired by "Champaran", the village in Bihar where Mahatma Gandhi began his agitation in 1917 to protect the rights of peasants in indigo plantations.
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Competitions like who will wear the costume first etc. were used to be played by the cast.
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In 2010, the film was ranked No. 55 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema".
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In 2011, it was listed in Time magazine's special "The All-TIME 25 Best Sports Movies".
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The film was screened retrospective as the Closing Film on August 18, 2016 at the Independence Day Film Festival jointly presented by the Indian Directorate of Film Festivals and Ministry of Defence, commemorating 70th Indian Independence Day.
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During the filming of Lagaan, it did not rain at all in the region. However, a week after the shoot finished, it rained heavily bringing relief to Bhuj, which had a lean monsoon the previous year.
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After searching through Rajasthan, Nasik and UP, to find the setting for the fictional town of Champaner, the team zeroed in on an ancient village near Bhuj, located in Gujarat's Kutch district, by May 1999, where the film was primarily shot.
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The script demanded a dry location: an agricultural village where it had not rained in several years. To depict the 1890s era, the crew also required a village which lacked electricity, communication and automobiles.[23] Kutch faced the same problems at that time and hence the village of Kunariya, located a few miles away from Bhuj, was chosen.
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After the 2001 Gujarat earthquake devastated the region, the crew, including the English, contributed to their cause by donating Rs. 250,000 (equivalent to Rs. 710,000 or US$11,000 in 2017), with further contributions during the year.
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The typical old Kutch hamlet was built by the local people four months before the arrival of the crew.
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The crew travelled to different parts of the country to collect the musical instruments used in that day and era.
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Avadhi, which is a dialect of Hindi, is primarily from a region in Uttar Pradesh. It was chosen to give the feel of the language spoken during that era. However, the language was diluted, and modern viewers can understand it.
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The dialogues, which were a combination of three dialects (Avadhi, Bhojpuri and Braj Bhasha) were penned by Hindi writer K. P. Saxena.
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Most of the 19th century tools and equipment depicted in the film were lent to the crew by the local villagers. Initially, they did not want to part with their equipment, but after much coaxing, they gave in.
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While on the sets, the actors were given call sheets with the day's timetable such as breakfast, hair styling, make-up, costumes, etc.
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Channel 4 listed Lagaan at number 14 in its list of "Top 50 Films to See Before you Die".
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The film was also included in CNN-IBN's list of the "100 greatest Indian films of all time" in 2013.
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A comic book, Lagaan: The Story, along with two colouring books, a mask book and a cricket board game were subsequently released to the commercial market. The comic book, available in English and Hindi, was targeted at children between the ages of six and 14. At the book's launch, Aamir Khan said that they were keen to turn the film into a comic strip during the pre-production phase itself.
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In March 2002, a book titled The Spirit of Lagaan -The Extraordinary Story of the Creators of a Classic was published. It covers the making of the film, describing in detail the setbacks and obstacles that the crew faced while developing the film from concept to its release.
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In the anniversary DVD edition, a National Film Award-winning documentary, Chale Chalo - the lunacy of film making, 11 collector cards, a collectible Lagaan coin embossed with the character of Bhuvan, a 35 mm CinemaScope filmstrip hand-cut from the film's filmstrip were bundled with the film.
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The film slightly follows the plot of "Naya Daur".
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Director Cameo 

Ashutosh Gowariker: an untouchable and a widower.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In the film, Bhuvan scored the winning shot and was not out throughout the innings. In reality, while filming the climax, Aamir Khan admitted to have gotten bowled out once.
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The shot where Bhuvan hits the winning 6, the team and villagers run towards him to celebrate their victory followed by the sequence of rain, was a one take shot. With 10,000 people running around on set, possibly leading to a stampede, and with the risk of the crew and equipment getting mobbed, the director had just one chance to capture the perfect scene. It was a huge risk, but they absolutely nailed it.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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