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
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:
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,"
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
Moved by the problems there, he decides to stay on to try and make