Indian nationalism is represented in the film Lagaan with the people of Bhuvan’s village, and especially Bhuvan himself. Bhuvan is portrayed as a hero fighting for his (Indian) people against a foreign enemy, the British. When he stands up to Captain Russel, he does so to fight for his village and the whole province of villages, his “nation.” Although people in the village may not always get along or be looked down upon, they end up sticking together against the British. Goli and Bhura set aside their quarrels for the sake of the village. Outcasts like Guran, Bagha, and Kachra also join Bhuvan’s cricket team in a show of what Benedict Anderson refers to as the nation’s imagined sense of community. When the day of the fateful cricket match arrives, all the province’s villages travel to view the game and support Bhuvan’s team; and even though they have not interacted with Bhuvan or his team members before they are still nationalistic as they share the same values, ruler (the rajah), and enemy (Captain Russel.)
The British demonstrate nationalism as they (with Elizabeth as an exception) mostly only interact and respect other British people. Although Russel and the others interact with the rajah and Ram Singh, they still clearly do not value them as much as their British comrades. Even though the British occupy another land far away and much different than their homeland, they do not treat India as their home or nation, and practice their own British values and customs while either ignoring or denigrating Indian customs–like when Russel attempts to humiliate the rajah by forcing him to consume meat.
Elizabeth, Ram Singh, and the rajah play with the idea of nationalism as all three interact with both peoples and cultures. But overall, despite Ram Singh and the rajah spending most of the movie around British society, they are viewed foremost as Indian, with the rajah cheering on Bhuvan’s team to victory and Ram Singh getting slapped around by Russell even though he is the captain’s assistant. Elizabeth may be loved by the villagers, but she cannot truly join them–she was only a spectator to their songs and dances. When Bhuvan and the villagers celebrate their victory, Elizabeth is again pushed to the sidelines as she realizes she cannot be with Bhuvan.