Freeze Frame #77: Swades

Swades is the sort of movie that is very unlikely to become a big success. It has a point to make and it takes itself , and the point it makes ultra-seriously. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the preachy nature of one of the main characters (played by Gayatri Joshi) compounds matters. However, I find that, on second viewing a few years later, the film works much better. I’m not entirely sure why.

One thing that stands out in Swades is SRK’s performance. Everyone’s commented on it, and SRK, I’m sure is sick of hearing that this is his one good performance. I think he’s done pretty well in a few other movies, but that’s besides the point. The good thing about Swades is that it expects him to underplay things a bit. Surprisingly enough, he manages to do that pretty well.

The sequence that stood out for me is the one where he is sent to a poor farmer’s house in a different village to collect the rent. This is a premeditated move by his one-time nanny Kaveriamma, who believes that the man needs to see the India that exists outside his trailer and his sanitized water bottles.

We know, going into the scene, how this is going to turn out. What is surprising is how little he speaks in that entire sequence. You just see him absorbing all this, and then sitting by himself in a train, turning it over. You see him speaking of it only later, when an elderly gentleman speaks of how India may not be developed but still has its culture intact. In what is perhaps the single most sensible speech in the movie, he speaks of how that argument is just our way of remaining complacent about our nation’s problems.

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