How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Thursday, December 23, 2004

'Swades'

This past Sunday our gang stole a few hours from extremely hectic schedules to go to the city and watch 'Swades' - the new film directed by Ashutosh Gowariker (of 'Lagaan' fame). We watched in a hall called 'Shubham', located near Kaiser Bagh. Lucknow cinemas look very dilapidated from the outside, but they are quite decent inside. The seats here were very narrow, though, and not as good as in 'Novelty'.

The film stars Shah Rukh Khan (Mohan Bhargava) - an NRI working for NASA as Project Manager, Global Precipitation Management (nice title :) ). He is deep into managing a project launching a new weather satellite, when he remembers the daayi maa of his childhood, who had brought him up till age 17 after his parents' death. He feels a desire to immediately come back to India and meet her. He takes a leave and comes to Delhi, where he runs across the debutante heroine Gayatri Joshi (Geeta), who actually shows him the (wrong) way to Charanpur, the UP village where the daayi maa now lives.
SRK reaches there in a huge caravan (mobile home) and finds that Geeta is actually his childhood friend who now lives with daayi. She is a graduate from Delhi, but for reasons of principle, teaches in the village school. Many characters of the village are introduced and SRK is shown to be getting gradually more interested in the matters of the village, while he does his NASA work remotely from a laptop in his caravan.
Typical village issues (rampant casteism, neglect of girls' education, poverty, non-availability of electricity, etc.) are shown. Although Geeta's comments and attitude lead SRK to talk reforms in the village, his views are not exactly appreciated by the panchayat. Finally, he undertakes a micro-hydel power project with a turbine and villagers' help and succeeds heroically.
The story of the micro-hydel power project is based on a true story of two US-based NRIs who came back to India and carried this out in a village. They are duly acknowledged in the credits.

On the plus side, we have the restrained tenor of the film. Gowariker doesn't go over the top, by the standards of Hindi films. The performances are a definite plus. I liked SRK's acting after a long time (almost the first time after 'Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa'). But Gayatri Joshi's performance was even more impressive - she acted the smart teacher excellently, and never once was she cowed down by the presence of SRK.
Also on the plus side is A. R. Rahman's music (with good lyrics, too). Udit Narayan has done a superb job in the singing department. He has struck a great rapport with ARR who seems to bring out the best in him. I particularly liked the songs 'ye taaraa, vo taaraa' and 'pal pal hai bhaarii' (set in a Ramlila).

On the negative side is the length of the movie - three-and-a-quarter hours is a bit too much. Many parts of the film also remind one distinctly of B. R. Chopra's 'Naya Daur' (minus the socialist message). Also, the resistance of the villagers is not shown very realistically, I think. Drastic reforms might easily lead to lynching of the reformers in UP.

Our return journey was made complicated by the inauguration of a new Scientific Convention Centre in the city, for which Atal Behari Vajpayee and the CM, Mulayam Singh Yadav were to come. After a lot of wasted time, we finally made it back to the institute.

2 Comments:

Blogger CycloNurb said...

Went to watch Swades today. The proceeds are supposed to go to the Tsunami relief fund.

Cinematically the movie is very rich, apt metaphors presented both visually and in the dialogues and songs. Some of the shots(for instance, the overlaid rear-view mirror image of the actress) were quite creative. Simplicity was another trait that clearly stood out right from the beginning of the movie. Unlike other contemporary bollywood movies that I have seen, this one looked more like one of amol palekar type movies.
The dialogues were clearly well written with the right choice of words, and especially well delivered with pauses and expressions at the right times by the actors.
As you point out, the length of the movie was definitely a negative point and it had too much detail which could easily have been left out.Even though most songs were good, only a couple really blended well with the progressing story. And, in my personal opinion, some songs did not maintain the same simplicity in execution like that of the rest of the discourse elements in the movie.

It was intetersting, somewhat cynical, to sit in the middle of (and be one of) the NRIs and watch them clap on certain dialogues and situations in the movie.

What was even more interesting was the fact that we(my roommates and I) had the same discussion that SRK and gayatri have while they are eating lunch in the movie. Our discussion was the fallout of watching Gandhi. It was mere coincidence that we saw two such movies with one big message that tells us how the greatness of people is in their simplicity and the ability to win the inner struggle in what they should do and how they do it as opposed to what the society expects from a common man in their place.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Tadatmya Vaishnav said...

Arnav,
Thanks for the remarks you made. It was interesting reading. It was a view from the other side, so to speak. You must be more interested in movies from a technical angle now. We'll discuss that angle whenever we meet next...'whenever' being the operative word.

10:16 AM  

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