Sensible, Subtle and Slow
, 25 May 2005
Swades is a simple, but serious story and with a message for NRI's(Non Resident Indians) NRI in this film is given a new meaning: Non Returning Indian! It is not the same as Gowariker's Oscar nomimated Lagaan, in scope and entertainment, but certainly has similar themes; namely the protagonist being at conflict with the social system and trying to win ther support of people to change it. Even the structure of the story is similar. However, the treatment of this subject is much more serious and while there are some light hearted comedic moments, most of the film is very serious and deals with depressing contemporary issues of poverty, caste system and illiteracy in some parts of rural India and does it sensitively, subtly and slowly.
It does not surprise me that Swades has not done well at the box office given it's subject. Nor, does it surprise me that it has gone relatively unnoticed by western critics who seem to have typecasted Bollywood as anything that is singing, dancing and colourfull. Just recently I was watching a Bollywood special on 'DVD Review' on BBC, where a western critic was giving her critique on the recent Bollywood movie 'Black' She had reservations about calling Black a Bollywood movie; her reasoning was simply because Black did not conform to the standard Bollywood framework. Which really is like saying Moulin Rouge and Chicago are not Hollywood movies because they do not conform to the standard Hollywood framework.
This ignorance can also be applied to those western critics who call 'Bride and Prejudice' a Bollywood movie. Knowing that these kind of 'critics' are reviewing Swades, it's not surprising that Swades has gone unnoticed with them. Not 'Bollywood' enough for their taste.
Just for the sake of putting out those ignorant some mentioned above out of their mistery; the definition of a Bollywood movie is a movie that has been made by the Mumbai film industry of India. Now, moving onto the rest of the review - In my humble opinion Swades is overall a superior and more thought provoking product than Lagaan in terms of story, depth, theme, music, direction and technical aspects. However, lacks the universal crowd pleasing appeal of Lagaan and it's epic qualities. Swades also lacks the fluidity of Lagaan that kept people gripped despite the 4 hour running time. That cannot be helped really - given the themes Swades tries to tackle. I would have preferred that Gowariker had focussed more on the social themes than on Mohan and his relationships.
I found the ending to be disappointing and drawn out. Without giving any spoilers, I will say that Mohan's final descision should have been different and the movie would have ended at a more powerfull and ironic note and been more relatable to an NRI. This would also have done away with the final 20 min, which should have not have passed the editing table.
Swades is definitely worth watching, provided you are going to be paitent with the film. If what you are looking for is entertainment, than Swades has that as well, but there are far better films for this purpose. However, if you want an intelligent and sensible film about real issues, and some light entertainment and melodious music on the side, then you won't go wrong with Swades - 8/10
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