Renowned cinematographer Anil Mehta recently revisited the iconic climax cricket match shoot of the Bollywood epic ‘Lagaan’. Amidst the 30-day-long endeavor, Mehta, on the inaugural day, approached Aamir Khan to express reservations about his proposed suggestions for the scene. Throughout the filming process, he consistently reminded director Ashutosh Gowariker’s team of the paramount distinction between capturing a cinematic narrative versus documenting a sporting event.

Reflecting on Aamir’s initial suggestion, Mehta recounted, “He said, ‘Now that we have the booklet. We can keep bringing the batsman one by one and you keep shooting. We would know when they hit a six or a four!'” While Mehta initially implemented Aamir’s concept on the first day, he later felt compelled to address the impracticality, stating, “This is not how it is going to work. I can’t do this coverage.”

The esteemed National Award-winning cinematographer elucidated his approach, emphasizing the imperative of capturing the essence of the drama. “If I am shooting a drama, it must look like that. When Bhuvan (Aamir’s character) is batting, I wanted to be up and close to him. When Kachra (Aaditya Lakhia) is batting, the emotions need to translate onto the screen. The emotions of each character were different,” Mehta articulated.

He further delineated his methodology, illustrating the nuanced portrayal of characters through strategic lens choices, particularly in the case of Kachra, portrayed by Aaditya Lakhia. Set against the backdrop of Indian villagers pitted against Englishmen to alleviate their tax burden, the climax of ‘Lagaan’ posed a formidable challenge to the filmmaking team.

Mehta candidly acknowledged the arduous nature of filming the climax, expressing, “We shot for 30 days. Doing the same scene over and over again gets monotonous and tedious.” Compounded by the absence of the promised booklet detailing the pivotal cricket matches, the team faced additional hurdles.

Recalling the prelude to the climactic shoot, Mehta recounted, “The whole crew was sitting in the hotel. We took a break of two days to write the scene and discuss ball by ball account of this match (climax match).” Despite suggestions for an elaborate eight-camera setup, Mehta staunchly advocated for a restrained approach, reiterating the essence of the scene as a cinematic narrative, not a sports broadcast.

Released on June 15, 2001, ‘Lagaan’ garnered widespread acclaim, solidifying its status as a seminal milestone in Hindi cinema. Although the film garnered an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category, it narrowly missed clinching the coveted award.