Lagaan: a Missed Opportunity For a Deeper Political Message?

One of the interesting inclusions of Lagaan was Kachra, the dalit/untouchable. Clearly, there was a political agenda with his inclusion, as Bhuvan literally touches him–going against his proclaimed title. Also, Bhuvan makes the speech telling his people to “not commit to this caste division” and accept Kachra as one of their own. Moreover, the role he served in the film was of pretty significant importance. With his ability to curve the ball while bowling (pitching), he was vital to help secure an Indian victory. Upon doing so, he is even celebrated by his teammates. The nationalist message delivered is that all Indians must unite together to defeat the British. However, there was an opportunity by the filmmakers to go even deeper with this message of Dalit equality.

In the end of the film, it is Bhuvan and Kachra who are left to bat, and he is explicitly labeled as one weakest batters of the team. Could this mean that, in opposition to Bhuvan and some of the others, Kachra is a weaker member of society? Possibly. The opportunity was there to make him the true hero of the day, as he was the last to bat. However, it was not seized, as the filmmakers chose to have him strike out (lacking cricket terminology here), but there be a penalty committed by the bowler, leaving Bhuvan to bat and win the day. Though the filmmakers are making Kachra a pivotal part of the plot, and included a deep political message by putting him within the ranks of other working-class Indians, it seems as though they backtracked, disallowing him to move higher within the social hierarchy. Had Kachra been left to bat, rather than putting Bhuvan back into the limelight, the message of Kachra’s equality would have wrung much deeper. Nevertheless, though he played a key contributing factor in the team’s victory, the opportunity to truly put him on equal ground — and possible even transcend him past — was left out.

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