If you have never seen a Bollywood film before, you wouldn’t expect one like Swades to be your first. This was exactly my scenario, and I was caught extremely off-guard. Before watching it, I knew who Shahrukh Khan was, and knew what Bollywood was, but I had a limited viewpoint. I expected every movie to have random outbreaks of singing and dancing, and big colorful sets. However, Swades surprised me.
Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and starring Shahrukh Khan, the expectations around this film are huge. It would’ve been a real shame if India’s biggest superstar, and the only director to bring India to the Oscar’s in recent years, couldn’t produce a quality film. Fortunately, this film is a winner.
The main issue with this film is the storyline. The problem is that there really isn’t a story, which makes the film drag. At a length of around 3 hours and 30 minutes, there are some points where you just want the film to end. Not much happens in the first half, and it is basically an extended introduction to the village and its inhabitants. The film really picks up in terms of plot in the second half, when Mohan is exposed to the extreme poverty in front of him.
Gowariker seems to lose his grip on the film at times, and loses focus on the main plot. There are many scenes that he could have easily cut out of film, which would’ve made it a shorter and sweeter affair.
Out of the many songs in the film, only a few stood out to me. First, the song in the RV is interesting as Mohan picks up a man off the streets and sings with him as if he’s known him for years. The last song, “Yeh Jo Des Tera,” is very good as it perfectly connects Mohan’s emotions with the situations of the film. However, the songs are a major contributor as to why the film reaches a 3 hour length, and the ones that didn’t connect to the plot were unnecessary.
The performances in this film were quite interesting to see. I now know why Shahrukh Khan is referred to as the King of Bollywood after watching this movie. He is the heart and soul of Swades, and he carries it throughout the 3 hours. His portrayal of Mohan seems effortless at times, as he always has the audience invested in his character. The supporting cast, from Gita to the postman, is fantastic as well.
The main reason this movie is a success is the message it carries. This isn’t something that is relatable to Indians only, which makes it very special. The message I received from the film is that there is no place like home. For a college student hundreds of miles away from my own home, I can say that that is an accurate statement. Even though Atlanta is a great city, New York is my home and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Besides this, the message is relatable for the millions of immigrants in the world. No matter where they go and how successful they become, they will never be able to forget their homes.
Swades isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it’s an important one for sure. It has a bunch of flaws, but it seems like Gowariker intended on it being a simple affair. However, Khan’s powerful yet subtle performance and the incredibly moving message make this film an enjoyable experience. I give Swades 3.5 Swoops out of 5.