An SRK film is keenly awaited. And if the
super-star teams up with a celebrated director
whose previous film was nominated for the
Academy Awards, the expectations are gargantuan,
So when a dynamic combo - SRK and Ashutosh
Gowariker - join hands, you expect the film to
be, if not better, at least at par with LAGAAN.
After all, comparisons with LAGAAN are
Unfortunately, SWADES disappoints big time. The
story of SWADES would've been ideal for a
documentary, but for a feature film with a
running time of 3 hour plus and starring the
country's biggest star, it just doesn't work.
Yes, SWADES has a few interesting moments. But a
handful of deftly executed sequences aren't
enough. It had to be one exciting joyride, with
the 3 hour plus narrative grabbing your
attention from the word 'Go'.
To put it bluntly, SWADES is high on hype, low
on substance and extremely low on entertainment.
Ashutosh Gowariker has missed the bus this time!
Set in modern day India, SWADES tackles the
issue facing the citizens of this nation at
grassroots level. The India of SWADES is
colorful, heterogeneous and complex and it is to
this environment that Mohan Bhargava [Shah Rukh
Khan], a bright young scientist working as
project manager in NASA, returns to, on a quest
to find his childhood nanny.
What begins as a simple mission prompted by
nostalgia and affection turns into a journey to
the heartland of rural India, both literally and
Mohan finds his nanny, Kaveriamma [Kishori
Ballal], the symbol of motherhood, in a village
called Charanpur with an admirable young woman
Gita [Gayatri Joshi] and her younger brother
Chikku [Master Smit Sheth].
Mohan begins to interact with the Panchayat,
which has at the helm the dogmatic but the just
village chief. Along the way he encounters the
quirky but endearing Mela Ram [Dayashanker
Pandey], who sees Mohan as his ticket to the
chain of restaurants he will start on the
Mohan befriends the local postmaster Nivaran
[Rajesh Vivek], stuck to his old-fashioned ways,
and the village children, whose future is
inextricably linked with that of the country.
Soon, Mohan finally realizes that it is his
scientific temperament as well as his
understanding of societal complexities that can
drive the villagers to participate in a movement
to better their lives.
One of the reasons why SWADES does not hold is
because of its waferthin storyline [the story
idea - bringing electricity to the village - is
reminiscent of the recent MUMBAI SE AAYA MERA
DOST]. Frankly, the story of SWADES progresses
well till SRK arrives in the village in search
of his nanny. But after the initial 30 minutes,
the story stagnates. There's not much happening
in the narrative and the flashpoint between SRK
and Gayatri [he wants Kaveriamma to accompany
him to the U.S., she wants Kaveriamma to stay
back] is not something that would make the
viewer long for the second half.
The post-interval portions are one strenuous
ride, with not much being offered in terms of
content. And the incidents in the narrative -
SRK visiting a faraway village to recover money
from a farmer and learning of his miseries,
later bringing in electricity to the village,
then his decision of returning to the U.S. - are
not the type that would involve you completely.
Besides, the number of songs in the
post-interval portions only slackens the pace of
the goings-on. The film could've easily done
without a song or two in this half.
You anxiously await the climax of SWADES [partly
because LAGAAN had an exhilarating finale] with
bated breath, but again, the culmination to the
story is sans anything exciting. It's tame and
Director Ashutosh Gowariker may have chosen a
subject he was fascinated by, but expecting the
audience to be as fascinated by the subject is
asking for too much. The story is not as
absorbing - it doesn't have the meat to last for
3 long hours - and even the narrative unfolds at
a sluggish and lethargic pace. In fact, the
narrative gets so boring and cumbersome after a
point that you seriously wonder whether the
editor [Ballu Saluja] had gone on a holiday or
perhaps, he was so fascinated by the director's
work that he didn't feel like trimming/deleting
the unwanted portions.
Gowariker's screenplay also does not have enough
moments that would instantly catch the attention
of the masses. For a majority of cinegoers,
especially the hoi polloi, the film holds scant
appeal. Gowariker's intentions of depicting the
problems of rural India may be noble, but it's
not too great an idea of entertainment,
specifically for that viewer who is thirsting
for entertainment and believes in
sunshine/feel-good/escapist cinema. Besides, the
length only acts as a deterrent.
Even the much-hyped NASA sequences aren't
something an ordinary viewer would be ecstatic
To his credit, Gowariker has drawn fine
performances from the cast. And a few sequences
do have the masterly strokes of an efficient
technician. But that's about it!
A.R. Rahman's music may sound soothing when you
hear it, but when viewed with the story, most of
the songs are of the 'fast forward' variety.
Clearly, there's not one track you carry home
after the screening has concluded. In fact, it
would be in the best interests of the film to
delete a few songs in the second half, for that
would perk up the goings-on to an extent. It
would prove to be a good exercise in some damage
control at least!
Cinematography [Mahesh Aney] is excellent. The
rural look has been captured beautifully.
Dialogues [K.P. Saxena] are outstanding, but
they tend to get into a sermonizing mode after a
Shah Rukh Khan is extremely likeable. He stands
firm on his feet in dramatic sequences,
confirming yet again that he's not merely a
super-star, but a super actor as well. Gayatri
Joshi makes a confident debut, though she can go
easy on her expressions at times. Yet,
considering that this happens to be her maiden
big screen appearance as also the fact that
she's paired with the country's biggest star,
Gayatri manages to make her presence felt.
The film has a number of characters, but if one
were to choose those who displayed their skills
effectively, it would be in this order: Kishori
Ballal, Rajesh Vivek and Dayashanker Pandey.
Makrand Deshpande gets one song and scene,
On the whole, SWADES disappoints. At the
box-office, the film may appeal to a handful of
critics [await the 5-star ratings!] and those
who believe in this form of cinema, but for a
majority of viewers, SWADES will be remembered
as a good opportunity gone waste. Businesswise,
not much to look forward to in swades as
well as videsh.