Monday, November 14, 2005

Jai Ramji Ki!: Swades

(I had a hard time with titles for this one. Other possibilities included "Rama in a camper van" [a prize goes to whomever knows the reference for that] and something along the lines of "like water for India," but it wasn't working out quite right and seemed a little too dramatic, as this movie is emotional but not overdone.)

This is a lovely story. Bollywood-watcher or not, you should run out and see it right away. Go on, I'll be here when you get back.

Okay, now that you've seen it, wasn't the water imagery fascinating? Going beyond its usual usage as indicator of attraction, here it ties most closely, I think, to the sense of home. What does Mohan do for a living? He develops technology to predict water. And what is the story about? His discovery of what home means, of where it is, of the other people who also reside there, of what life there entails. The balance of Mohan's desire to move back to India tips when he gets the generator to work. When the water flows - when he dives down to remove what prevented it from flowing - he knows he can integrate into the village, belong there, serve there.

There are many touching moments in this movie, but my favorite is one that borders on wisdom. Unlike the other Bollywood films I've seen, where two people in the beginnings of the rush of filmi love find themselves in a surprise storm that drenches them, clothes clinging, huddling together under an umbrella or dancing through the puddles, here Mohan follows Gita thoughtfully, carefully, in a step in his bare feet into the lake. Yet their sense of surprise at finding each other is real as well. Somehow these two things - finding yourself attracted to someone and deciding to do something about it - are coordinated in a way that you don't see very often in movies.

Another favorite was Gita tying Mohan's pants. Sexy in a demure way, but also pragmatic and embarassing, that was completely in keeping with the characters.

The only other thing I want to say until I'm quite sure you've really gone and watched the movie is that I must extend a heartfelt superwow to Shahrukh for a performance unlike anything else I've seen him do - and, of course, to the director and other actors, who guided and responded to him equally well. I know nothing technical about acting, so I don't know how to express what I think here, but I will say that he seems to have abandoned his usual charm offensive to serve the quiet, thoughtful, but still passionate and funny nature of the story and character perfectly. If I had only read descriptions of SRK and his more typical characters and styles but never seen him, I would never have known this was he. Think about the scene when the power cuts out during the movie and he starts dancing: his moves are a little dorky and certainly not up to what we all know he can actually do, and the crowd is not immediately and wholly won over by his antics. They really aren't even antics. They're attempts by a slightly goofy scientist and decent human at making the most of a teachable, community-building moment. This is an antic-free performance. And the supernova of star power that is SRK, usually so enjoyable and irresistible, is nowhere to be seen - but you don't mind, because it's completely unnecessary. Long live the king.

Also, the line "Don't mistake my helplessness for betrayal" is ooooooooof good.

4 comments:

annous said...

first I love your blog.
and I agree with you about Swades.Amazing film..fit not just for Indians, but for anybody who is away from home
and SRK rocks!!!!

Anonymous said...

Though I must admit that I like srk better in his usual movies, especially when he is in comedy mode, in this movie he proves all his critics wrong once and for all. Now he has proved beyond doubt that he can do anything

Maja said...

I wonder if you'll ever see this comment, the blog entry is about 6 months old ... But I was reading some of your old posts and had to comment here:
"Rama in a camper van" [a prize goes to whomever knows the reference for that]

Is it a reference to Jesus in a camper van, the Robbie Williams song? And if yes, what's my prize? ;)

Anonymous said...

Great film. My favourite scene is when SRK looks out of the train and see's the poor boy who sells water counting his money. The way this scene is shot is fantastic. I love the songs too. I also love Gaytari Devi character.....sad she made no other films