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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 16:57 GMT
Cricket coming to Hollywood
Guest correspondent Gulu Ezekiel on how cricket and Bollywood have teamed together to produce a blockbuster hoping for Oscar success.
The Indian film industry is awash with excitement with the news that Aamir Khan's Lagaan has been nominated in the Best Foreign Feature Film category in the Oscars this year.
Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and produced by and starring Khan, the movie is based in an Indian village in 1893 and centres round a cricket match played between the villagers and the British rulers.
If the locals win, they will be exempt from lagaan (or tax) for three Years. If they lose, they will have to pay triple the tax and face virtual starvation.
'One cricket team that's done us proud' ran the page one headline in The Indian Express daily on Wednesday. All national papers carried the news of the nomination on their front pages.
Khan had been camping out in Los Angeles for many weeks, canvassing with academy members to pick his maiden venture as a producer (He also plays the lead role).
"Most of the Academy members were wary of seeing such a long Hindi film," Khan admitted in Bombay where the entire crew had gathered in front of the TV to watch the live telecast of the nominations list.
But although it's nearly four hours long, this film has clearly impressed the powers that be.
"This one's for India", said director Gowariker while Khan was already being quizzed about what he would wear on the gala night.
"I have no idea. But I will be there," he assured his fans.
"I am definitely happy", Khan added. "I feel Indian cinema should carve out a place for itself in the world.
"More movies like Lagaan will be made because there is no dearth of talent."
The movie was released last summer in England through Sony Entertainment and was a big hit. It is expected to be distributed in the US through Columbia Tristar.
This is only the third time an Indian movie has been nominated for the Best Foreign Film category.
The earlier nominations were Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) and Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! (1988).
Two Indians have previously won Oscars, Bhanu Athaiya for costume design (with John Mollo) for Gandhi in 1982 and director Satyajit Ray, an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1992.
Athaiya also designed the costumes for Lagaan. Meanwhile, Indian-born director Shekhar Kapu's Elizabeth won two minor awards in 1998.
While Lagaan soars above the average Bollywood potboiler, it does have its share of songs and dances without which no Indian movie is considered complete or indeed marketable.
First cricket film in 50 years
Lagaan, with a cast of British and Indian actors, is the second feature film to revolve round cricket. The first, The Final Test, was released in 1953.
That starred Jack Warner as an aging batsman with the screenplay by Terrence Rattigan.
It also had England's captain of the day, Len Hutton delivering a few wooden lines and was neither a critical nor a commercial success.
This will be third year running that the Oscars will have a touch of cricket. Last year Russell Crowe won the Best Actor award for Gladiator and in his acceptance speech thanked his late uncle, David for being his "inspiration".
David's - who wrote extensively on cricket - was the proud father of Martin and Jeff, both of whom captained New Zealand.
In 2000 Sam Mendes won Best Director for American Beauty.
Mendes played for Oxford and also represented Shipton in the 1997 National Village cricket championship final at Lord's (they lost to Caldy)
Some years back musician and director Sir Tim Rice had left the Hollywood crowd baffled when he thanked cricket legend Dennis Compton while accepting one of his three Oscars for the night.
The other nominations for this year's Best Foreign Film category are Amelie (France), Elling (Norway), No Man's Land (Bosnia) and Son of the Bride (Argentina).
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