Lagaan, Gadar released 20 years ago on this day, were historic hits

By Subhash K. Jha,

Who says there is no room for two blockbusters on the same day? Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan and Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha released on the same Friday, June 15, 2001 both became historic hits.

 


 

“Why not?” reasoned Ashutosh Gowariker. “Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa released on the same Friday in 1975. Both created history. My own Lagaan was released on the same day as Gadar. They both got their audience.”

 

Why not? If both the films are worthy they will both be blockbusters. Manoj Kumar’s Roti Kapda Aur Makaan and Manmohan Desai’s Roti were released on same Friday. They were both blockbusters. Much later Indra Kumar’s Dil and Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Ghayal were hits on the same Friday. So it’s all to do with the product. If the audience likes two films it will ensure success for both.

 

Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and David Dhawan’s Chote Miya Bade Miyan released on 16 October 1998 were both big hits. But nothing like Lagaan and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha which are among the biggest successes in the history of Indian cinema.

 

Anil Sharma claims his film was a bigger success. “My film Gadar had made Rs. 200 crores years ago when the concept of the 100-crore club was unknown.”

 

Lagaan was nominated for an Oscar. The impact of colonialism, cricket and Aamir Khan (in that order) was lethal. Says Ashutosh Gowariker, “Lagaan is about the triumph of the human spirit. So, it had to be about a team sport. Once I thought of cricket, I also thought about the little mind games that the British indulged in with the locals and what would happen if the locals picked up the gauntlet. I expected people to like Lagaan. But not to this extent.”

 

In an interview in 2002 Amitabh Bachchan had said to me, “Indians would like nothing better than to see Lagaan win an Oscar. But even if it doesn’t win the trophy, for me, the nomination is as good as victory. It is a film that you instinctively take to because it is one of the most brilliant films ever made. A perfect piece of work, flawless in every respect. If Lagaan has reached such heights today, it is because of the singular efforts of one man Aamir Khan. But its international success is a tragic reflection on the fragmented status of our film industry. A single individual had to produce, act, distribute, promote and sell his product all the way from Mumbai to Los Angeles. In fact, he had to almost establish a second home in LA to sell Lagaan. Aamir’s film proves we have the potential to make a mark in the international arena. But the film industry needs a forum or group of like-minded people to take over a product and sell it as their own. We have to understand we are one industry. Aamir had the guts and will-power to do it alone. He has shown us the way, like Satyajit Ray before him. Ray too had the guts and hindsight to take his films to international festivals. Not many were willing to sit through Ray’s films, and in the beginning, there were hardly two people in the theatres. It is only after they saw, went back and talked about the films, that others followed and Ray became a legendary figure. Aamir went through a similar experience in the US. He called the usher at the theatre, passers-by near his hotel and anyone who was willing, to come and see Lagaan.”

 

Also Read: 20 Years of Lagaan EXCLUSIVE: Aamir Khan on Oscars’ loss – “The film was highly appreciated, so you don’t look at it negatively”

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