Swades-Release Date: December 17, 2004
NRI. young scientist working as a project manager in NASA returns to on a quest to find his childhood nanny

Studio: UTV Communications
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Screenwriter: Ashutosh Gowariker
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Raja Awasthi, Vishwa S. Badola, Kishori Balal, Rajesh Balwani, Vishnudatt Gaur, Farrukh Jaffar, Bachan Pachehra, Rich Petrelli, Smit Sheth, Lekh Tandon, Bhim Vakani, Rajesh Vivek, Rahul Vohra
Genre: Drama

Set in modern day India, Swades is a film that tackles the issues that development throws up on a grass root level. It is to this India, which is colorful, heterogeneous and complex that Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a bright young scientist working as a project manager in NASA, returns to on a quest to find his childhood nanny. The film uses the contrast between the highly developed world of NASA, which has been at the forefront of advances in space research, and this world back home in India, which is at the crossroads of development. Mohan's simple quest becomes the journey that every one of us goes through in search of that metaphysical and elusive place called "home".


You'll know the man on the right. Shahrukh Khan, India's biggest film star, plays the lead role in Swades, 2004's most talked-about release and Ashutosh Gowariker's first film since the Oscar-nominated Lagaan. Khan plays Mohan Bhargava, a non-resident Indian scientist at USA's NASA, who returns to a little north Indian village where he initiates a self-governance movement to help locals tackle the troubles born of caste, poverty and poor infrastructure. The man to his left might as well have been the blueprint for Khan's role. As head of Citibank's derivatives business in Europe, Ramesh Ramanathan had already surpassed the Indian middle-class dream. And then he and his wife set up Janaagraha, a successful and innovative movement to increase citizen's participation in local government. The stories of the people who brought reel and real life closer than ever before in India.
IN popular lingo there's a rather nice term to describe Ashutosh Gowariker: khadoos (stubborn). He has a creative obduracy of doing things his own way, and the results, as his last film, Lagaan, proved, can be immensely agreeable. Now Swades, like its famous predecessor, seems set to become another calling card for the sheer madness of its maker. Gowariker, with the euphoria of Lagaan's Oscar nomination now far behind, has again chosen an unusual, if entirely relevant, subject for a mainstream film: returning NRIs

NRIs have been flourishing in Bollywood ever since Aditya Chopra turned them into a fashion statement in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge. But trust Gowariker to make them different. The NRI in Swades won't wear a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt while singing bhajans. Swades is not about NRIs with modern exteriors, traditional souls and cloying family values, but about an NRI who returns to his roots to work for his community.

Gowariker had thought of the subject back in 1996, alongside Lagaan. The plot premise came from Bapu Kuti by Rajni Bakshi, a book about nameless, real-life individuals involved in community development, about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. "Most of us accept problems the way they are," says Gowariker, "The idea behind Swades is of initiating a change."

Think NRI and you talk of brain drain, of seeking a better life abroad. Gowariker has no quarrels on that. "Opportunity strikes only once, so if you get a chance to study or work abroad, go ahead. But do look back at what you've left behind, do contribute to your country," he says. His logic is simple: even our freedom fighters studied in Oxford-Cambridge but came back to apply their education in and for the nation.


It's not coincidental then that Swades (with a Rs 20-odd crore budget) has a distinct resonance in contemporary reality. Many NRIs are tracing their steps back home and not just because they've been granted a pink slip by their "white" bosses or because they want their kids to grow up, marry and settle down in India. "They are not being forced to come back, they are not coming for better prospects either. They are selflessly giving up on things to do something useful here," says Gowariker.

And so we zoom in on the new face of a Bollywood NRI: SRK aka Mohan Bhargava, a young, well-to-do NASA scientist. He comes to India in search of his nanny, Kaveriamma (Kishori Ballal), and the physical journey parallels an inner, metaphorical voyage, a rediscovery of his forgotten India. The quest takes him to Charanpur village in the heart of north India.

Moved by the problems there, he decides to stay on to try and make a difference.