Swades, Dhoom: 2 Feel-Good Films To Watch While You’re Under Lockdown Due To COVID-19- PART 5

We are back once again with a list of feel-good films that you can watch while you’re stuck at home during the lockdown. Check them out below

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Swades, Dhoom: 2 Feel-Good Films To Watch While You’re Under Lockdown Due To COVID-19- PART 5
1. Swades (2004):  This is a unique experiment with grassroot realism.  It is so politically correct in its propagandist message that initially you wonder if the government of India funded the director’s dream. But no. This neo-classic, conceived and designed as the Great Indian Journey into the heart and soul  of poverty , is funded entirely by Gowariker’s over-weening idealism, his sincere desire to define  his  purpose and function as a  creative  artiste and his determination   to  alchemize his angry social conscience into a  work that’s  as simple lucid and lyrical as a tune sung in repose by that  minstrel singer who sings not because he must but because he knows no other thing to do. There’s an  enchanting intimacy to Swades that invites you in without trying. The plot is so ‘obvious’  you wonder why an ambitious commercial behemoth like Gowariker would want to make a film about a young  highly successful NRI’s rediscovery of his roots!  Once the director sets off on this picaresque journey of self- discovery with his protagonist he doesn’t flinch from the  sheer  exoticism and transparency of his  familiar yet fascinating tale .

Often in this long and finally deeply fulfilling journey you wonder what could possibly have prompted the director to make a film that doesn’t pull any punches, resorts to no gimmicks in the narration and chooses to stay supine.  Gowariker strives to achieve the opposite of stylization in his reposeful narration. As Mohan Bhargava  takes a homesick journey from his cushy job in NASA to a village near Delhi to meet up with his foster-mother(Kishori Ballal) we often find  him in situations that are eminently qualifiable as clichés on patriotism. Swades avoids being a  3-hour-15-minute long flag of nationalism . It avoids posh   postures and  chic gestures of  the aa-ab-laut-chalen  NRI-returned cinema.   It simply curls up in the most casual and relaxed positions affordable to narrative cinema and lets Mohan Bhargava come to terms with his conscience. There’re hardly any hysterical highs or looming lows in the storytelling.  The format adopted by Gowariker is akin to a  television soap. Life flows effortlessly but fluently  along with the multitude of characters    creating an  exoteric drama  conveying the opposite of  the two other notable NRI-returned-home  films Pardes and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge with  Shah Rukh Khan in the lead. If the other two films were giddy glamorous celebrations of patriotism Swades is far more austere and comprehensive in its view of  India’s acute need to recognize its weaknesses and strengths and act accordingly….and  urgently. Parts of the elaborate film are  patently polemical.   Gowariker stops the narration to let Mohan lecture the characters on why we as a country haven’t been able to provide food and education at the grassroot levels.  The passionate dialogues by K.P. Saxena ring true even when their righteousness threatens to pitch the words at a pulpit  level.  Ashutosh Gowariker isn’t scared of his idealism getting the better of his cinematic  impulses. 

In many vital ways Swades is a  far less ‘cinematic’ film than Lagaan. It doesn’t adopt any of the technical methodologies   that a multi-crore epic must necessarily adopt in order to spin a marketable web of eyeball-arresting images. Swades is in fact, rather casually shot in parts.  The sections at NASA are particularly lacklustre , and one wonders how  far cinematographer Mahesh Aney is  to blame for this.  The casual grace  of Mohan Bhargava’s journey back home is  obtained   in the way the character responds  to  the socio-political stimuli provided by The Great Indian Nightmare(as opposed to the American Dream). There’s a long passage  where Mohan journeys to a wretched village  to meet  an impoverished family . The whole sequence where the head of the family narrates his woes to Mohan even while being hospitable to him is so idealistic, your heart reaches out not only to the characters but also to Gowariker for making a  film so stripped of cynicism  that the transparency of the emotions is   pitched as  the opposite of a fashion statement on  nationalism. There are high moments of cinema strewn across the narration. The whole sequence when Nasir  Husain’s Yaadon Ki Baraat(with Gowariker’s Lagaan hero Aamir Khan as a little child!)  is screened for the villagers is so brilliantly underplayed and carried forward  through the endearing Ek tara song  , you realize that Gowariker’s brilliance as a filmmaker lies  in extracting the essential drama of life from the most routine situations in his script. 

The romantic liaison between Mohan Bhargava and the spirited feminist Geeta is given a shaded treatment, never overpowering the larger more dominant themes in the script.  Debutante Gayatri  Joshi, though a tad too glamorous   to be the new-age Jaya Bhaduri is one of  the many refreshingly underexposed actors in the film who add to its alluring authenticity. But it’s Shah Rukh Khan who dominates the proceedings. Standing at  the centre of what’s unarguably the most ‘un-cynical’  film of our times he strips away the glamorous veneer of his recent   characters to play a guy  who’s  completely credible. Never before has Khan conveyed so much pain through his eyes. To say he feels for his character is an understatement.  To say that the film allows him to finally come into his own as an actor is more like it.

2. Dhoom(2004): Aptly titled Dhoom  creates a zigzagging zoom across the chic frames. It doesn’t let you stop to catch your breath. Damn! It doesn’t even let you think about the excruciating improbabilities that litter the  shrieking skyline. This has got to be one  of the noisiest soundtracks heard in  recent times. If it’s not hell on wheels then its Salim-Suleiman’s brake-the-winds banshee background score creating sounds of guys having fun. And then   throw in a couple chicks with clothes that look like nappies turned into bikinis….kar voila to ho voila!  You have a real guys’ flick crammed with   gadgets and nozzles that stare down at us with enticing defiance. This flick-off-a-wrist  dares  you not to have fun.  ‘How can you not surrender to our all-systems-go brand of in-your-face filmmaking?’  the tone of narration seems to suggest.  Not brain-dead and certainly not a dull moment in sight Dhoom flicks the essence of  the  Hollywood thriller—speed, style and shrieking sounds—and  turns  it to its own homespun advantage.

While the wry cop Jai(played with twirling  sang-froid  by Abhishek  Bachchan)  and the marauder on the bike Kabir(John Abraham, so deadpan he makes you thankful for the momentum in the narrative)  are single- mindedly  urbane in their design and purpose, the  Lovable Crook Ali  played with lovable crookedness by Uday Chopra(he played a very similar role in his last release Charas), is a  straightforward  desi stereotype.  You can trace him down to Ashok Kumar in the old Kismet, and then you can carry forward   his lineage down to Amitabh Bachchan and   Rishi Kapoor in Manmohan Desai’s  Amar Akbar Anthony Remember how  Amitabh Bachchan  sauntered up to Rishi Kapoor on stage to garland him  with currency notes  while the latter sang the qawwalli Parda hai parda in Amar Akbar Anthony?  There’s no Qawwalli in  Dhoom and certainly no purdah as Esha Deol gyrates on strage in an unabashed display of female allure. But there IS    an    Ali instead of Akbar  who  joins Deol on stage to create a kaleidoscopic motion of commotion.

While Uday Chopra’s rapport with Abhishek’s Bengali wife(Rimii Sen) has echoes of Lethal Weapon, John Abraham’s fiendish transformation from a pizza boy to  bank robber is  a subversion of the Superman legend.  Unlike Superman  Abraham doesn’t wear his underwear on top. It’s the ladies who  move around in glorified lingerie.  In fact Esha Deol’s transformation into a  new- millennium Bo Derek is quite  startling.  The power of  moving images is employed in Dhoom to create a stimulating heady almost aphrodisiac  world of amorality. The cop on the prowl and the villain on the bike are almost interchangeable in their  world-view. “We could’ve been friends,” the biker keeps reminding the cop, voicing the moral muddle that Dhoom whips up in a foamy wet and stormy display of  in –your-face  machismo.In the first-half  the narrative borrows heavily from Hollywood films like  Gone In 60 Seconds , The  Fast & The Furious and  the biker movies  of the 1960s  like Easy Rider. Post-intermission we are taken into a casino in  a hotel for a climax that echoes Steven Soderberg’s Ocean’s 11.

To director Sanjay Gadhvi’s credit the stormy mélange that takes the plot from  Kismet in the 1940s  to Ocean’s 11 in 2002  never gets unwieldy or even remotely vulgar. Though fast paced macho and amoral, the world of Dhoom is essentially harmless and fun-filled. The  violence is contained  and often comic-bookish.   The chases and stunts marvellously orchestrated by stunt director Allan Amin, hide the enormous absurdities in the narrative  . In a strange and comic way Dhoom attempts to redefine the laws of formula filmmaking.  Its chic and anchor less narrative mode throws you off guard. The focus on monstrous machines and  undraped female torso stops short of being overdone, thanks to the director’s  control over his material.


Image Source: Instagram/swades_themovie/vkaao , tellangestore, IMDb