[Pic Courtesy Swades Official Site]
Saw Swades over the weekend. The movie is an example of a well-intentioned but not particularly entertaining movie. The hype on this one was huge since it was from Ashutosh Gowariker, the director of Lagaan and starred Shah Rukh Khan, Hindi cinema's superstar who was having an amazing box-office run prior to this. But it tanked at the box-office, earning flop status within a week of release.
To me, Swades seemed like a glossier, more polished version of our own Kamal's Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi without its best parts (the intercaste romance and the father-son conflict). The story is about Mohan Bhargava(Shah Rukh Khan), an engineer at NASA, returning to India looking for his childhood nanny. The search takes him to Charanpur(a fictional village) and the plight of the village makes him set out to improve the life of its people.
The plot is wafer-thin and the movie is quite slow. This makes it more realistic but at the same time, it also seems simplistic and overly optimistic. I couldn't believe that Shah Rukh could, with only the villagers' help, build a complex system to generate electricity and that the villagers, rooted in years of tradition, would give up their beliefs and practices so easily. On the positive side, Ashutosh's heart is in the right place and he succeeds in bringing the difficult lives of the villagers before our eyes. Many of the characters, like the postmaster/wrestler and the man with the dream of starting a dhaba along America's highways, are likeable. Shah Rukh gives a sincere performance with the actor shining through more than the star and heroine Gayatri Joshi is easy on the eyes too. ARR delivers a soundtrack with emphasis on melody. One song is the same tune as the Baba Kichu Kichu Thaa number from Baba. The final song has great lyrics about an Indian's unbreakable link to his motherland.