×

Swades: We, the People

Freshness and characterization that made "Lagaan" such a trailblazer for Bollywood's crossover potential is scarcely visible in filmer Ashutosh Gowariker's subsequent pic. Straight-arrow, single-issue story about a NASA engineer who returns to India and finds himself at odds with its traditional values. Legs look wobbly once word gets out.

With:
With: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Ballal, Smit Sheth, Lekh Tandon, Rajesh Vivek, Dayashankar Pandey, Farrukh Jaffar, Vishnudatt Gaur, Raja Awasthi, Makrand Deshpende, Vishwa S. Badola, Rajesh Balwani, Bachan Pachehra, Bhim Vakani, Rahul Vohra, Peter Rawley. (Hindi dialogue)

The freshness and characterization that made “Lagaan” such a trailblazer for Bollywood’s crossover potential is scarcely visible in filmer Ashutosh Gowariker’s subsequent pic, “Swades.” Straight-arrow, single-issue story about a NASA engineer who returns to India and finds himself at odds with its traditional values moseys along for more than three hours with a modicum of charm but almost no dramatic highs and an ending that’s signposted from reel two. Pent-up interest and the presence of superstar Shah Rukh Khan will ensure a strong opening but legs look wobbly once word gets out on the Dec. 17 worldwide release.

Khan plays Mohan Bhargava, an Indian expatriate working on a project to study worldwide rainfall at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, D.C. On the anniversary of his parents’ death in an auto accident, Mohan gets homesick and takes two weeks’ vacation to track down his beloved wet-nurse, Kaveri (Kishori Ballal).

Popular on Variety

When he finds her in a remote village east of Delhi, Mohan also re-meets childhood friend Gita (model Gayatri Joshi), who’s now an idealistic teacher dedicated to improving her people’s lot. When Mohan tells her he wants to take Kaveri back to the States, Gita is horrified, though she slowly warms to Mohan’s boyish appeal.

In the best of the pic’s so-so musical numbers, staged during an outdoor screening of the 1973 classic, “Yaadon ki baraat,” Mohan tries to heal the caste divisions which he sees as holding back progress. But it’s only when he uses his engineering skills to solve the village’s chronic electricity problems that he impresses the locals.

Gowariker’s unforced shooting style — halfway between mainstream Bollywood and non-commercial fare — is the same as in “Lagaan,” but this time is let down by a schematic, non-dramatic script. And, despite the widely signaled ending, there’s something unsettling about making the central character — a self-satisfied expatriate determined to bring Western values to poor Indian peasants — a charmer.

Khan keeps the movie on its feet through pure screen presence, but newcomer Joshi gets few chances to develop the beautiful young teacher, beyond portraying her as an uptight grouch. Although Khan and Joshi previously appeared in a commercial together, they have little natural chemistry, which further weakens their unconvincing love story.

Ballal is more flavorsome as the wise old wet-nurse, and supports like Dayashankar Pandey (as a cook who dreams of starting a dhaba franchise Stateside) and Rajesh Vivek (as the local postmaster) add some amusing color.

Lensing makes the most of the scenic opportunities without any high gloss. But dialogue by K.P. Saxena often seems more intent on lecturing than entertaining. “Swades” literally means “Homeland.”

Swades: We, the People

India

Production: A UTV Motion Pictures presentation of an Ashutosh Gowariker Prods. production. Produced by Ashutosh Gowariker. Executive producer, Sunita A. Gowariker. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. Screenplay, Gowariker, K.P. Saxena; story, M.G. Sathya, Gowariker.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Mahesh Aney; editor, Ballu Saluja; music, A.R. Rahman; lyrics, Javed Akhtar; production designer, Nitin Chandrakant Desai; costume designer, Bhanu Athaiya; sound designer (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Stephen Gomes; choreographers, Saroj Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant; action director, Abbas Ali Moghul; visual effects, Pankaj Khandpur; assistant director, Kiran Rao. Reviewed at Vue West End 8, London, Dec. 17, 2004. Running time: 195 MIN. (I: 100 MIN.; II: 95 MIN.).

With: With: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Ballal, Smit Sheth, Lekh Tandon, Rajesh Vivek, Dayashankar Pandey, Farrukh Jaffar, Vishnudatt Gaur, Raja Awasthi, Makrand Deshpende, Vishwa S. Badola, Rajesh Balwani, Bachan Pachehra, Bhim Vakani, Rahul Vohra, Peter Rawley. (Hindi dialogue)

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content