Sony Pictures Classics willgive Ashutosh Gowariker's Indian epic Lagaan a new theatrical outing in the US in the late springamid buzz that the 223 minute-film received a rapturous reception at itsAcademy Award foreign language film committee screening. The Academy Awardnominations are announced next Tuesday (Feb 12).

The film was released on theHindi theatre circuit in June last year through SET Pictures, the globaldistribution arm of Sony Entertainment Television (SET), which is the sevenyear-old Indian venture between Columbia TriStar International Television andSony Pictures Entertainment, Los Angeles. It grossed an impressive $0.835m.

SET's sister company SonyClassics is obviously a natural to release the film in English theatres,although the Hindi video and DVD have already hit US video shelves. However,the selection of the film as India's foreign language Oscar submissionhas led to a renewed exposure among English-speaking critics and Academyvoters, who responded favourably to its official screening, according toinsider reports.

The film first startedgetting international play at the Locarno Film Festival last year where it wonthe Prix Du Public Award and it went on to screen at the Toronto InternationalFilm Festival. A romantic costume epic set in a small farming village incentral India in 1893 during British rule, Lagaan tells the story of a cricket match staged betweenthe British overlords and a team of villagers. If the villagers win, they willnot have to pay tax (or lagaan) for three years; if they lose, they will haveto pay triple tax.

Produced by its star, Indiansuperstar Aamir Khan, Lagaan shoton location for five and a half months and is considered a classic example of anew Bollywood epic, with sumptuous production values, an accomplished songscore and gripping dramatic storytelling.

It is at the forefront ofthe international explosion of Indian cinema which has seen Miramax Films pickup rights to The Warrior, USAFilms pick up Mira Nair's Golden Lion-winner Monsoon Wedding and First Look Pictures take Asoka.