Saturday, December 18, 2004
A Very Good Movie

I am just back from Swades, and I am glad to say that this is easily one of the best movies I have seen... it quite agreed with my taste, and ideas.

Okay, if you want to keep the suspense (it is no thriller), stop reading this post now - and just go watch it. It's worth it.

What I liked the best was that the movie did not try masking narrow chauvinism as patriotism. In one scene, in fact, the hero pointedly says that he does not believe that India is the greatest country in the world, while definitely believing that it is a nation of great potential, and that it is wrong to condemn people of other culture as cultureless - a pejorative vrey often, and wrongly, attributed to Americans in many parts of the world.

Neither does it portray the hero's ultimate decision to return to India as a kind of emotional decision that he takes - in fact, he returns to the US, gets his work done, and then returns - after quite clearly explaining to his friend why he is doing so. Our usual potboilers would have had him see the poor and the naked, see the girl, decide to throw off his job (and shirk his responsibility towards his employers) and take on the plough, after marrying the girl. Nopes. Here, he acts quite responsibly, though under considerable emotional strain. He is steadfast, and hence patient.

And, the hero does not make an impractical choice of, say, becoming a farmer. He is quite clear that he would not waste his talent, would work for somebody like the Vikram Sarabhai Research Center. There is also a recognition here that even if you are a rocket scientist (literally), you could contribute in a positive way to the betterment of those in need.

There was no self-righteous indignation at those who do not return (though there is, I daresay, good-natured ribbing in calling NRIs Non-Returning Indians). A skeptic would say that it was with the NRI market in mind... but hey, let's give the maker the benefit of the doubt ;-).

To sum up, I would say this movie is a celebration of the human spirit, and dignity, and a call for everyone to dare, and live by their values, and aspirations. A message that well resonates with me. Bravo!

PS: Shah Rukh's acting was simply superb - no overacting! And the actress was more than just an eye candy (but, boy, that she was!) ;-)

this is utter choas, i am misled by contrary reviews.sigh
A few more things in praise of Swades:

1. Music by AR Rahman and lyrics by Javed Akhtar. The song 'Yeh jo des hai tera, Swades hai tera. Ye wo banghan hai jo kabhi toot nahi sakta' literally gives you goose pimples. The other one - Yeh Tara Woh Tara and Yuhi Chala are amazing too.

2. The supporting cast - Kishori Balal as his nanny. Though she has a strong Maharashtrian accent, her role is thankfully bereft of the usual histrioncs. She essays her part with wonderful grace. The postman (dont know his name) as the cheerleader for SRK.

3. The dialogues - two that stand out in my memory the 'Bharat subse mahaan desh nahi hai' and when he tells the villagers that they have learned to live with the darkness in their lives and are fooling themselves that they are happy

Because it is Gowariker's second movie, I have to compare it to Lagaan.

Lagaan was huge in scale and perhaps better entertainment, but Swades stands out for its simplicity and message. Its a brave effort and in my eyes, a more meaningful film than Lagaan.

On an aside my five best bollywood films of the year:

1. Swades
2. Dhoom
3. Ab Tak 56
4. Vastu Shastra
5. Veer Zaara
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