The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lagaan II in Digvijay backyard

Bhopal, Sept. 13: Aamir Khan will be pitted against Digvijay Singh, with Uma Bharti and Gracy Singh egging them on.

The Lagaan XI is all set to take on Digvijay XI in election-bound Madhya Pradesh. Ostensibly, the occasion is to promote rural sports.

National selector Sanjay Jagdale will “assist” team captain Digvijay. He will also keep a lookout for the likes of real life Bhuvan, Lakha, Kachra, Bhura, Goli and Bagha, the Lagaan heroes.

The cricket bonanza is set to take place on September 28 in Bhopal, provided rain and Aamir’s busy schedule do not play spoilsport.

The match will flag off a week-long rural sports festival across the state, which is being planned as an annual feature by sports secretary Raghav Chandra. Village panchayats will be pitted against each other in kabaddi and cricket with a tennis ball. The sports department is due to hold a press conference tomorrow to announce the event.

Aamir’s side has a stout backer in chief ministerial aspirant Uma Bharti, a self-proclaimed lover of the game. As former Union sports minister, Bharti had vetoed resumption of cricketing ties with Pakistan while complimenting the game: “Cricket is identified with our country, it is a very emotive game for us. So playing cricket against someone with whom we are on terms of enmity has implications that are greater than playing hockey or football or some other game.”

If Aamir can count on Bharti as cheerleader, Digvijay will fall back on Gracy Singh. When the Madhya Pradesh government called the Lagaan heroine to invite her, she accepted and laughed that she would back the chief minister’s side.

Digvijay also has on his side Jyotiraditya Scindia, who honed his cricketing skills under the watchful eyes of the late Madhavrao Scindia for whom cricket was a passion. Madhavrao, by his own admission, used to hate watching Hindi movies but Lagaan was different. He watched it again and again on DVD, delighted by the bowling action of Kachra, the wizard of spin, hailing from the weaker sections.

Apart from Scindia junior, the Digvijay XI boasts of Rajesh Chauhan, the former Test off-spinner from the state, and actor Ashutosh Rana, a Congress sympathiser. Jadgale has given his consent. Others include two state ministers who are known for their batting skills, Sharvan Patel and Manvendra Singh, chief secretary A.V. Singh and director-general of police Dinesh Jugran.

Lagaan has all along been given special treatment in Madhya Pradesh. In the Indore chapter of the Indian Institute of Management, budding managers are taught Lagaan as a case study for its brilliant depiction of human behaviour and the managerial skills of protagonist Bhuvan. The film may have missed the Oscar, but it has not stopped making waves here.

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