Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Dec ‘04
Time : 195 minutes
Director & Writer : Ashutosh Gowariker; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Balal, Daya Shankar Pandey

Swades is more a fable, less a film. In what is sure to strike a chord with every NRI, it describes how India, despite all its problems / infrastructural glitches and the thousand other issues we are familiar with, still manages to make a powerful call to return to all those who live outside its shores.

Mohan (Shahrukh), doing well in NASA, starts to miss / feel guilty about not having done enough for his Kaveri Amma (Kishori Balal), his beloved nanny who looked after him during his childhood. He travels to India and finds her living in a small village in UP, playing surrogate mom to siblings Gita (Gayatri Joshi) and Chikku (Smith Seth). Gita is an idealistic, opinionated school teacher, who is trying to ensure all kids come to school and study, and at first she resents Mohan’s attempt to whisk Kaveri Amma away to the USA. Kaveri Amma herself is torn between her obvious love for Mohan and also her love for Gita and her comfort in the village they live in. Who will she choose is the main plot of the film.

Several other sub plots include will Gita win the battle to retain the school in its present location (the villagers want her to shift) ? Will Mohan succeed in getting more people to send their children to the school or even in extracting rent from a tenant of Gita's who hasn’t paid in ages ? And towards the end, will he succeed in convincing the villagers that they can actually do something about their fate, they can change things on their own steam instead of always blaming the govt or 25 other assorted people for their ills ?

The film, despite being predictable, manages to hold attention primarily due to the time it spends building different character sketches. Whether it’s the panchayat head, the postman, the dhaba owner, the woodcutter or even the tenant, each person, despite being clich├ęd is endearing enough to strike an empathetic chord. They may not be entirely real but are real enough.

However, what contributes to the fable-like quality of the film is that nothing bad happens. The lower caste people are treated shabbily but know their place in society and never revolt. Communalism never rears its ugly head. Nor does politics. When the villagers actually try to build a turbine of their own, no govt officials land up asking them where they got permission from. It shows how people suffer but through sepia tinted lenses.

I liked watching SRK devoid of his usual glamour and antics – a much more sober, restrained performance, wearing clothes that are normal rather than over the top. I think people forget sometimes what a good actor he is, since it gets hidden behind all the veneer around him, and this film is a timely reminder of his talents. Gayatri Joshi makes a very assured debut. She is very good when asked to act or emote, completely out of place when asked to dance around trees or pretend to be a hopeless romantic (BTW, this whole bit was out of place in the film as well). I’m surprised she hasn’t appeared in more films subsequently. The character actors are very good, including Kishori Ballal

I get frustrated quite easily ever since I’ve returned to India. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been happier as well but there are too many ills plaguing us. There are some obvious solutions and a chance for the country to really progress, yet we’re stuck almost in a time warp outside the major metros. This film suggests that the solution is to take matters in our own hands and to be constructive rather than retreat or disengage – something the Indian middle class has perfected. Just for that, I recommend this movie…I hope it strikes a similar chord with you as well…


Rag said...

7 on ten????
come on.. it deserves more!

Sai Srujan said...

so did u do something..... for your country ....... If yes, i would love to hear it from u?.... If no just ur another indian who talks more and does less worthy