Movie review: Swadesh
Producer: Ashutosh Gowariker & UTV
Ashutosh Gowarikar, the director of epoch making LAGAAN, has come out with his next venture after four years. SWADES, which had created a lot of expectations, has the country’s biggest star Shah Rukh Khan as its main protagonist.
If LAGAAN was marked by its grandeur, SWADES is marked by its simplicity. Though it harps on the feeling for the motherland, it avoids preaching slogans and echoing clichés.
The film focuses on rural India that is under developed and struggling even to get basic amenities. This gloom scenario is depicted in the backdrop of rapid urban development, technological leaps, and the IT boom.
Mohan Bhargava (Shahrukh Khan), a scientist working on NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement satellite wants to visit India to trace his childhood nanny, Kaveriamma (Kishori Balal).
Mohan arrives to Charanpur, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh to find his nanny. Here he encounters a world with features that are quite opposite to the American lifestyle he is used to. The village is in a very poor condition in terms of Electricity, education, road facility and so on.
There is a light in the form of Gita (Gayatri Joshi), teacher in the local school. She works hard, with the aim of creating some sort of change in the society. She just can’t take Mohan’s criticism of the government’s inability to provide the basics for its people. She retorts his arguments by questioning his contribution to this society.
Amidst this ideological conflict, Mohan pursues Kaveriamma to come to America with him. But Kaveriamma is not only his nanny. She is the mother figure to Gita too. Gita is not willing to let her go. Kaveriamma too is not that keen to leave India.
She finds a solution. She assigns Mohan a simple task: collect overdue rent from a poor farmer who has leased Gita’s land. Mohan takes up this task.
The journey puts Mohan’s world upside down. He realizes the position of the poor villagers who crave for a leader to initiate efforts that could bring about development. He realizes that persons like him must take initiative. He decides to lead these helpless people.
SWADES sends a timely reminder to Indians at home and abroad. Development cannot be complete if it is not spread to the villages. One needs to take initiatives at the grassroots level to make the whole thing fruitful to one and all.
Gowarikar has carefully sketched the characters. Though Mohan is a pragmatic person she is not without emotions or passions. Gowarikar develops each and every supporting character with the aim of influencing his protagonist’s goal. Gita, for example inspires Mohan through her own example.
The portrayal of the village and its people is realistic. The village-folk’s innocence is brilliantly depicted and this makes room for some natural humor.
The script is strong and focused. Unlike LAGAAN, the enemy in SWADES lies within in the form of submissive acceptance of injustice by those who suffer it and ignorance by those who witness it. Mohan helps the villagers identify their enemy, teaches them to fight it. At the same time, he also learns a lot from them.
A.R. Rahman’s soulful music and Javed Akhtar’s powerful lyrics augment the tone of the theme. Songs such as “Yeh Jo Des Hai Mera” and “Pal Pal Hai Bhaari” strengthen the narration. The production design by Nitin Desai adds much value to the entire venture.
Gowrikar has extracted some first rate performances from his cast. Shah Rukh Khan is extremely brilliant. He deftfully handles dramatic and emotional sequences. He once again proves that he is not merely a super-star, who has mass appeal. He shows that he is a super performer too.
The serenely beautiful Gayatri Joshi makes a classy and confident debut. She effortlessly exudes an unassuming grace and poise. Though she leaves much to be desired when it come to strong expressions, she has manages to make her presence felt in her maiden venture.
The film has its flaws too. The pace of the movie is not consistent. The editing lacks maturity. The camera work by Mahesh Aney is not up to the mark. Though the script is focused and the execution is professional, the emotional quotient of the film has not emerged strongly and hence it might fail to create mass appeal.
Despite some flaws, SWADES undoubtedly provides as inspirational experience. It touches the right card at the right time. It gives patriotism a new and pragmatic identity in the era of globalization. Since the film has a pan Indian appeal, it is expected to do well all over the country. The dubbing in Tamil must augment its business prospects down south, as the Tamil people are fond of Shah Rukh and Rahman.