Jab bhi hum daleelon me kamzor parhne lagte hain
Hum hamesha do hi cheezon ka sahara lete hain
sanskaar aur Parampara
After the amazing success of Lagaan, there were quite a lot of expectations from Swades, Gowarikar's next. In a sense, Swades does come close to Lagaan in parts, it fails, on the whole, to entertain. Swades has a story to tell and it does tell the story in a unique style, that of realism and perfection. Aamir Khan and his Lagaan notwithstanding, Swades is indicative of the effect that Khan had on his director.
Mohan Bhargava works as a Project Manager for NASA where he is working on the Global Precipitation Measurement model. In the middle of his project, he starts thinking of Kaveri Amma, the lady who took care of him during his childhood. He feels the guilt of having left her alone in India and as such, leaves for India to find and take care of Kaveri Amma. Once in India, he realises that Kaveri Amma has left the Old Age Home where she was living and has gone on to Charanpur, a small village in Uttar Pradesh.
He also meets Gita, who guides him to some other place but luckily, Mohan manages to find his way to Charanpur. He finds that there are a lot of problems in the village and Kaveri Amma is too attached with Gita and the village to leave them with their problems. The rest of the story revolves around how Mohan starts solving the village's problems to enable Kaveri Amma to accompany him to America. Soon however, he gets truly involved in the village and its people.
From the directorial front, the movie is well made but for the speed of execution of some situations. As mentioned earlier, the high point is that the movie showcases things up front, as they are and without any pretence. The viewer is provided the choice to see and feel India from an outsider's point of view, unbiased and unadulterated. All the same, the drama of the story is lost once the story starts becoming too real for the taste of the masses. The classes might still appreciate the directorial efforts of Gowarikar, especially the minor touches like the scenes where Shahrukh is shown riding pillion with two others on a Bajaj M80.
The cinematography, keeping in mood with the rest of the movie, is serene and quiet, but of good quality. The picturisation of the songs has come up quite well, especially the Dekho na song which looks a lot different from the way many would have imagined it to be like, on listening to the audio. The songs, even otherwise, are good and display a decent combination of fast and slow pace, instruments and vocals, imagery and direct talk.
Shahrukh Khan does an honest job and after a long time, may not have been able to sleepwalk (in his own words) through his role, as he might be doing in his other Yash Chopra-esque movies. Gayatri Joshi as the principle-driven socially conscious school teacher is fresh, beautiful, graceful, and in one word...smart. She makes the screen come alive with her eyes. As they dart around seductively at times, mockingly at others, the entire gamut of expressions plays its part on Gayatri's face.
The character artist who essays the role of Kaveri Amma is effective, too, but for her sickeningly always smiling expression and her awfully southern diction. Rest of the cast, including the Daadhi-waale-baba from Lagaan who plays the postman here, the actor who plays the role of Melaram, the budding American Dhabba owner, and Makrand Deshpande in a cameo, are all very good and provide the much needed relief from the endless moral science lessons that the others seem too intent on providing the audience.
Swades might as well be a true story for many NRIs and as such, should end up being a big hit overseas and probably that is what the target audience of Gowarikar is. Having tasted the blood once, he intends to go all the way to the Oscar this time but he might not be as lucky this time around. He will definitely have to wait for another inspiration. As for the local audience, Lagaan scores far higher than Swades on the entertainment aspect. Swades bores the audience at many places and at times, people are forced to await the intermission/end due to the sheer stretching of the dialogues. Had there been a little less of moral lesson delivery through dialogues and more of drama interwoven with the story, the movie would certainly have been more effective.
If you are the die-hard patriot, if you do not miss any of Big Khan's movies, if you want to watch a fresh, young face who gives another dimension to the school teacher role (played so differently by Sushmita a few months back), if you want to see and appreciate the reality in Indian villages, if you want to know what it is like for the expatriots who leave their country of birth but are not able to leave their memories, Swades is the movie for you. If you want entertainment and paisa vasool, look elsewhere.