How Ashutosh Gowarikar introduces ‘Bhuvan’ in Lagaan?

When, Ashutosh Gowarikar directed, ‘Lagaan’ went to the Oscars as one of the nomination for Best Foreign Language Films, a lot of people thought it was a fluke. But over the years, when we compared the film with some of the films made after this classic, we realize that ‘Lagaan’ was truly a game changer in Indian Cinema. Not only for the story and performances, the film scores on various levels, be it the background score, amazing production design as creating a 1892 Champaner was hell of a task, considering the film was made after the globalization era, etc.

Let’s discuss a scene which I consider as one of the most important scene from the film:

The scene starts with an extreme long shot of the trees and camera is kept over a crane. The camera goes down and down and there is a smooth hidden cut (reminds of the opening shot of ‘Citizen Kane’ where the camera starts from a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and we move up) before we get to see Bhuvan for the first time. We see through a point-of-view shot of Bhuvan that he is looking at a deer. We again cut back to Bhuvan and in a SINGLE SHOT the camera follows the movement of his hand and we see him picking a stone. This is done to create the tension in the minds of the audience. Remember Anticipation?

                    SHOT 1                 +                    SHOT 2                   =MEANING
Bhuvan looking at deer picking a stoneHe will hit the deer
Juxtapositioning of two shots results in a new meaning

We think of this inference because of the juxtapositioning of previous two shots. We are perplexed as to why is he killing the deer or hurting the deer. He is supposed to be the good guy in film.

He again aims the deer with that stone and through his point of view, we look at the deer and feel sorry for it. There is cutting of shots back-and-forth 3-4 times to increase the tension, to heighten the tempo as Bhuvan’s hand goes back, aiming at the deer. He looks like a hunter who is waiting for his prey. Bhuvan throws the stone but it misses the deer by quite some distance. How did he miss it? We hear the sound of a gun shot. But he doesn’t have the gun. Then who fired it? We see the reaction shot of Bhuvan. There is a wicked smile on his face giving a feel of triumph.

Lagaan (2001)

In the next shot, we see a group of Britishers led by Captain Russell ordering his men to chase the deer. This is again done through Bhuvan’s point-of-view. We therefore realise that bhuvan was actually saving the deer from getting shot by Captain Russell. So he indeed is a good guy. But for a minute, the director did confuse us. This is example of a well-written scene, a great character introduction.

The scene continues when Captain Russell chases the deer with his men and Bhuvan too, hiding behind trees, tries to sabotage their plans. This chase continues for a while, trying to show the length and breadth of the forests. The camera stops at Captain Russell asking everybody to be quiet. We think why? Next shot shows his point-of-view and we see the pair of deer. Bhuvan also stops and picks another stone. The anticipation develops again. As Captain is about to fire, we see a gun entering the frame right on Bhuvan’s neck. Bhuvan looks at it. There is a gun shot (No deer shown, only sound) and the camera TRACKS IN quickly and we see Bhuvan’s frame changing from Mid Close up to a tight close-up (To show his setback). The stone falls from his hand (it shows he has accepted his defeat).

The scene not only is well shot and edited, but it also establishes both the major characters, Bhuvan and Russell, without a single dialogue. This scene later on prompts Russell to set an unrealistic condition (the cricket match) for all the villagers in order to be exempted from the taxes.

Great way to start a great film. Isn’t it?

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